Italian prime minister wins confidence vote

Victory could boost a beleagured Berlusconi, still smarting under two recent electoral defeats.

    Silvio Berlusconi's popularity has been particularly dented by a spate of scandals (AFP)

    Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, has won a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament, overcoming infighting within his ruling coalition.

    Tuesday's parliamentary vote could boost a beleagured Berlusconi, still smarting under two recent electoral defeats.

    The prime minister's coalition won the vote in the Chamber of Deputies on a development law by a 317-293 margin after the Northern League, an increasingly frustrated ally, supported the measure. The law now faces a similar vote in the senate.   
        
    Berlusconi's coalition, however, remains in a delicate position, with the Northern League demanding tax cuts and an end to Italy's participation in NATO's military campaign in Libya in return for further support.

    His parliamentary majority has been vulnerable since Gianferanco Fini, an old political ally, withdrew support last year.
       
    Asked if Berlusconi would see out the end of his term in 2013, Umberto Bossi, the League's leader said: "If he does the right things, yes. We've already given Berlusconi a timeline."
       
    Pier Luigi Bersani, a centre-left leader, said it was only a matter of time before Berlusconi's coalition collapsed.
       
    "We are one step nearer to the break-up of the centre-right, which is getting ever closer," he said.

    Tough challenges
       
    Berlusconi is expected to address the senate later on Tuesday, to outline his government's programme for the rest of its term, including concessions to placate the League.
       
    Berlusconi faces a bigger test in coming weeks when he must push through measures worth around $57bn to eliminate the budget deficit by 2014. A task made even more frustrating by the League's demand to cut taxes.

    A series of corruption cases, a stuttering economy and a scandal involving an underage prostitute have also taken their toll on Berlusconi, whose support among voters now stands at a record low of 29 per cent, according to pollsters IPR.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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