|Italy PM Letta likely to prevail in Rome showdown
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta is tipped to win a nail-biting parliamentary confidence vote which would deal a major blow to Silvio Berlusconi, but could leave Italy more frail than ever.
Letta's survival hinges on rebels within Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party (PDL), who are considering splitting from the media mogul after he called time on the government and pulled his ministers from the cabinet.
Berlusconi has called for his party to vote against the motion of confidence in the government.
“Despite the risks, I have decided to put an end to the Letta government,'' Berlusconi said in a letter to Tempi magazine published Tuesday, in which he blamed Letta and Italy's president for not protecting him from his legal woes, AFP reports.
But he was left on the back foot on the eve of the vote after his chief protege – Interior Minister Angelino Alfano – said he was “firmly convinced that our party as a whole should vote confidence.’’
Tensions within the uneasy coalition have risen since Italy's top court upheld a tax fraud conviction against Berlusconi in August and calls from his allies for a pardon from President Giorgio Napolitano fell on deaf ears.
Senior party figures have said 40 PDL senators are ready to vote for the government, which would hand Letta the overall majority he needs.
The premier holds a comfortable majority in the lower house but is only sure of 137 votes from his own Democratic Party (PD) and centrist allies in the Senate – meaning he needs at least 24 extra to secure the 161-seat majority there.
He may be able to count on a few votes from opposition parties such as the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, but has sworn not to limp on without strong enough support to implement much-needed economic and structural reforms.
Berlusconi 'world crashing down'
Even if Letta clinches the vote, analysts have warned that his government will be weaker with Berlusconi in opposition.
If he loses the vote, President Napolitano will be forced to try and cobble together a new government or send the country back to the polls.