Berlusconi wins Senate

AFP, Tuesday 14 Dec 2010

Amid rallies on Tuesday by thousands of anti-Berlusconi protesters, the Italian premier won a confidence vote in the upper house of parliament, prolonging his stay in power

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi gestures as Economic minister Giulio Tremonti sits beside him, at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Tuesday, 14 December 2010. (AP)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday won a confidence vote in the upper house of parliament, ahead of a more uncertain vote in the lower house.

The government won in the Senate with 162 in favour out of 308 votes cast.

Italians on Tuesday anxiously awaited the outcome of a knife-edge confidence vote in parliament on Berlusconi's government that could bring down the flamboyant Italian leader.

Berlusconi voiced confidence in a victorious outcome as he arrived in parliament and said he "absolutely excluded" his resignation.

As lawmakers debated in parliament, thousands anti-Berlusconi protesters prepared to rally in the centre of Rome to demand a change of government amid a heavy police presence aimed at blocking protesters' access to the parliament.

"Let's hope the government falls today," said one of the protesters, 17-year-old Enrico Morsillo. Victor Hugo Santos, 17, agreed: "It's a government that's not good for young people and doesn't think about the future."

The confidence vote follows a bitter split within the ruling coalition after the rebellion earlier this year of Berlusconi's once-loyal ally Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of parliament, along with around 40 lawmakers.

Analysts say the vote in the lower house is just too close to call.

Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by Berlusconi's brother, forecast the prime minister would win with 314 votes in his favour and 308 against.

La Repubblica, a leftist daily that is very critical of Berlusconi's rule, said Berlusconi would lose by 313 votes against and 312 votes for.

Berlusconi appealed to Fini's supporters on Monday, calling on them to show "responsibility" and saying: "We must unite for the good of Italy."

He asked his former partners not to "betray the mandate from our voters."

The 74-year-old also argued that a vote of no-confidence would be damaging for Italy given the current turbulence on eurozone financial markets.

He warned against the "political folly" of ousting him at such a time.

While Berlusconi has a safe majority in the Senate, he has been weakened by a string of scandals in recent years as well as the defection of close allies and his support in the Chamber of Deputies is less sure.

The result of the vote in the Chamber is expected at around 1300 GMT.

Short link: