Italy’s Berlusconi refuses to resign after obscene quip

ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi dismissed opposition calls to resign yesterday after yet another vulgar gaffe stirred up a mix of outrage and weary exasperation.

Berlusconi, under pressure over a variety of corruption and sex scandals and facing criticism over his centre-right government’s erratic handling of the economic crisis, accused the left-wing opposition of “obsessively” seeking to drive him from office.

“It is a demand I consider absurd, which would only create instability and which would open up new room for financial speculation,” he said in a video message to party supporters.

“We have the numbers to reach the end of our term, as the constitution provides. And we will go ahead and complete our reform programme,” he said, adding that he would remain in office even though it represented a “personal sacrifice”.

Berlusconi’s comments came as newspapers and opposition parties lambasted the premier over his latest verbal excess, a suggestion that his ruling PDL party rename itself with a vulgar slang term for female genitalia.

The joking remark, to a group of party deputies in parliament on Thursday, drew severe criticism from the opposition which said it underlined Berlusconi’s contempt for women.

“His misogynist jokes are offensive to women, who are considered less and less as people and ever more as ‘goods’ to be sold to the highest bidder,” Giuliano Carlino, a senator from the opposition Italy of Values party said.

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