Berlusconi wins first round in no confidence vote

Berlusconi won a confidence motion in the Senate as expected, ahead of a lower house vote that could force him to resign or leave him clinging on to a wafer-thin majority.

Berlusconi wins first round in no confidence vote

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a confidence motion in the Senate as expected on Tuesday, ahead of a lower house vote that could force him to resign or leave him clinging on to a wafer-thin majority.

But the result was just the first round in a showdown that will climax with a no-confidence vote in the lower house expected around 1230 GMT.

After a year overshadowed by corruption and sex scandals and an acrimonious split with former ally Gianfranco Fini that cost him a secure parliamentary majority, a day of reckoning has arrived for Berlusconi after two and a half years in power.

If he loses in the lower house, he will have to resign, leaving President Giorgio Napolitano to name a new government or call elections more than two years before they are due in 2013.

After a fevered campaign of back room deals, in which opposition accusations of vote-buying and corruption have been answered by fierce denials and counter-accusations of treachery, many commentators estimate the government may just have the numbers to scrape through.

There are 630 deputies in the lower house and Berlusconi in theory needs 316 votes to be sure of victory. But the real number may be smaller due to abstentions or the absence of a heavily pregnant member of the opposition Democratic Party.

Riot police blocked off the centre of Rome to keep back expected protests by thousands of students and other government opponents.

"Either there are the conditions for continuing in government with a solid majority or it would be better to go to an election," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a senior member of Berlusconi's Northern League coalition allies told reporters.

Former anti-corruption judge Antonio Di Pietro, who now heads the opposition Italy of Values party, said in parliament:

"Whatever the result of the vote you have bought, one thing is clear. You (Berlusconi) do not have a political majority that would allow you to govern."

"Whether you like it or not, you have reached the end of the line for your political experience," he said.


Reuters


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Last Mod: 14 Aralık 2010, 15:00
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