Italy Other


Berlusconi survives confidence vote

On 14 December, the Berlusconi government won a confidence vote in both houses of parliament, securing the continuation of its term for the time being. While the Prime Minister obtained a clear victory in the Senate, his government won the vote in the Chamber of Deputies by a thin 3-vote margin, counting 314 supporting votes against 311 in the 630-seat lower house (two deputies abstained from voting, three were absent). The final result confirmed early speculations that the vote would be a close call. On the eve of the vote, Berlusconi's government enjoyed a clear majority only in the Senate, after his former ally Gianfranco Fini and 42 lawmakers had split from the Prime Minister's People of Freedom party (PdL, Popolo della Liberta) in July and founded a new party, Future and Freedom (FLI, Futuro e Liberta). The confidence motion had in fact been tabled by Fini's side earlier this month, together with the centrist opposition parties. Berlusconi won owing to support of three FLI deputies next to votes from a handful of lawmakers, who, until few days before the vote, were listed in the ranks of the opposition. The result led to speculations of vote-buying, which were strongly rejected both by Berlusconi himself and his allies. Despite having survived the confidence vote, the future of Berlusconi's cabinet remains unclear, as the thin margin indicates that the government lacks a sufficient power base in parliament to pass any major legislation. Analysts and political commentators in the country do not rule out the possibility of early elections this spring. According to market analysts, political uncertainty will not add risk to the stability of Italy's sovereign debt. In particular, earlier in December both houses of parliament had already approved the Budget and Stability Law for 2011, paving the way for spending cuts of EUR 25 billion, thus shoring up the country's finances against turmoil in the political arena.

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