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Europe

Berlusconi warns ousting him would be 'political folly'

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has urged lawmakers not to oust him in a no-confidence vote on Tuesday. The prime minister said the country's economic stability depended on him surviving the vote.

Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi is up against a failed coalition, a garbage crisis and several alleged sex scandals

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday addressed the Italian upper house ahead of a crucial no-confidence vote on Tuesday. He told lawmakers it would be "political folly" to let his government collapse.

"Our country is being shaken by serious tensions that concern the heart of the economic system - the financial credibility of the state," Berlusconi said.

"The last thing Italy needs is a political crisis," he added, appealing to senators to be "politically responsible" and renew confidence in him and his government.

Seeking new allies

Burning garbage in Naples

The Naples garbage crisis has added to public discontent

Berlusconi said the country's economic stability depended on him surviving the vote. He also offered to widen his ruling coalition to include two centrist parties that currently oppose him.

"I want to reconstitute the alliance of all the moderate forces that were the origin of our political engagement," he said.

Lawmakers in both the upper house Senate and the lower house Chamber of Deputies are to vote on Tuesday in a motion presented by the center-left opposition.

The embattled leader has pledged early elections if he loses the vote, which seems to be on a knife's edge in the lower house.

Both lawmakers and population divided

Backed by allies in the anti-immigration Northern League, Berlusconi still enjoys support in the Senate but lost his automatic majority in the lower house when former coalition partner Gianfranco Fini broke up the government following a string of scandals involving the premier.

Gianfranco Fini

Fini turned from close ally to bitter political opponent

A defeat for the government in either would force Berlusconi to resign, just two-and-a-half years into his term - which is only due to expire in 2013.

With a slew of sex scandals, a paralyzed economy, nation-wide protests, and his own loyal backers turning against him, Berlusconi’s base of support has eroded. His failure to deal with the garbage crisis in Naples has also cost him dearly in popular opinion.

Tens of thousands took to the streets of Rome on Saturday in marches organized by the center-left opposition Democratic Party (PD) under the slogan "The Italy that wants to change." On Sunday, thousands rallied in the capital in support of the premier.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote, an investigation has also been launched after widespread media allegations that the prime minister's camp has been trying to buy the votes of undecided parliamentarians.

Author: Andreas Illmer (AFP, AP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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