Berlusconi dramatically wins confidence vote

By Eric J. Lyman
0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 15, 2010
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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will hang onto power for at least a few more months after surviving a razor-thin confidence vote that could have forced his resignation.

By the final tally on Tuesday, Berlusconi survived on a 314-311 vote in Italy's lower house of parliament, where he does not hold a solid majority.

The vote total was announced by a visibly tired Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of the lower house and a former Berlusconi ally who helped spark the current crisis by calling for Berlusconi to resign five weeks ago.

The outcome of the vote was unclear until the very end. That's because at least a dozen lawmakers switched camps as the votes were counted in the wake of what local media said was a flurry of last-minute deal-making as both sides tried to tip the scales in their favor.

As the votes were counted, several minor scuffles broke out on the floor of the parliament, including one that lasted for several minutes after the vote of lawmaker Katia Polidori, a Fini supporter who unexpectedly switched sides to support Berlusconi amid catcalls that said she had been "bought" by allies of the billionaire prime minister.

Three other female lawmakers in the late stages of pregnancy all arrived in parliament -- one in an ambulance, and another pushed in a wheelchair -- in order to vote against the prime minister.

With the vote counting going slower than expected, one of the pregnant deputies, Federica Mogherini vowed that she would leave parliament "only if my water breaks."

To ensure against the threat of possible violence, police and military officials circled both the parliament and the Senate.

But protesters gathered at both places, throwing rocks, paint, and eggs and at several points briefly clashing with law enforcement officials.

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