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Europe
Berlusconi survives confidence vote
Italian PM wins decisive victory with backing from breakaway wing of his centre-right coalition.
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2010 18:20 GMT
Analysts agree that Berlusconi would pass the confidence vote on Wednesday  [EPA]

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, has won a decisive victory in a confidence vote in the Italian parliament.

Berlusconi won 342 votes in favour of his government, with 275 opposed and three members abstaining.

The outcome came as little surprise after members of a breakaway group from Berlusconi's centre-right coalition said earlier on Wednesday that they would back the prime minister.

"We have different ideas from Berlusconi about the future of Italian politics, but we think now that Italy doesn't need a new election, Italy needs to be governed," Benedetto della Vedova, a member of the breakaway bloc, told Al Jazeera after the vote.

Berlusconi called on parliamentarians to back him to spare Italy political instability at a time of financial woe.

"It is absolutely in the interests of our country not to risk a period of instability in this moment where the crisis is not yet over," Berlusconi said.

He also outlined his government's goals for the remainder of its term, which include tax reforms, measures to fight organised crime and illegal immigration, and a politically delicate plan to overhaul the justice system.

Judicial reform

Berlusconi said the notoriously slow justice system must be sped up, and that the country's senior officials must receive immunity from prosecution - a contentious issue since he is the defendant in two trials in Milan that have been put on hold thanks to a government measure.

Berlusconi, who has a history of legal woes stemming from his media empire in Milan, has always called himself an innocent victim of politically-driven magistrates.

He touched on that argument in his parliamentary address, but he stayed away from the emphatic attacks against the judiciary that he has launched in the past; he once called magistrates the "cancer of democracy".

Instead, he promised more funds to help clear the backlog of cases pending in courtrooms across Italy, and avoided the potentially divisive details of an immunity deal.

'Serious crisis'

But opposition politicians suggested that the bitter dispute is unlikely to resolve itself sufficiently for the administration to survive until the next scheduled election in 2013.

"Today we are looking at a very serious crisis in the majority and I think it will be very difficult to resolve it," Roberto Colaninno, an opposition politican, said.

"The confidence vote, that I imagine the government will win but I don't think it will be decisive for the future of this government, this majority. An open crisis will remain."

Public figures - ranging from the head of the main employers' federation Confindustria, to unions and senior members of the Catholic church - have warned that the feud has distracted the government from the task of fostering reform, growth and jobs.

Source:
Agencies
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