Tens of thousands took to the streets of Rome on Saturday to protest against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government ahead of a no-confidence motion in parliament. Berlusconi said he was confident of victory.
Berlusconi is bracing himself ahead of Tuesday's vote
Despite protests in Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has denounced what he called a campaign of lies and slander, and said he would survive ahead of Tuesday's no-confidence vote in parliament.
Berlusconi's fate depends on the outcome of the vote: if he loses, elections will be called. He said he was confident of victory, but Tuesday's vote remains on a knife-edge.
A step towards change?
Protesters from across Italy streamed to the capital to take part in marches organized by the center-left opposition Democratic Party (PD) under the slogan "The Italy that wants to change."
Fini and Berlusconi (r.) split over scandals
Berlusconi no longer enjoys an automatic majority in parliament after Gianfranco Fini, the speaker of the lower house and co-founder of the People of Freedom party, broke up the coalition following a string of scandals involving the premier.
Fini and his supporters have said the 74-year-old prime minister must resign or they will vote with the opposition against him on Tuesday and force him to step down.
But on Saturday sixteen MPs from Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and the breakaway Future and Freedom group called on Fini not to vote against the government and urged him to open discussions with the premier.
Berlusconi welcomed the appeal, though Fini's chief lieutenant Italo Bocchino said the no-confidence motion was looking inevitable.
Demonstrators at the protests in Rome mocked the premier for scandals involving teenage girls and parties at his villa, while others focused on his legal problems, with slogans such as “Italy will change if Berlusconi goes to jail."
Italian prosecutors opened an investigation on Friday into allegations by the center-left opposition of attempts to buy votes in parliament ahead of the confidence vote.
"The first priority in Italy is to send this government and this premier home," Antonio Di Pietro, leader of the small Italy of Values party was quoted as saying.
The knife-edge vote in both houses of parliament could either mean new elections, or that Berlusconi bounces back once again. Backed by allies anti-immigration Northern League, Berlusconi has enough support in the Senate, but the vote in the lower house seems less certain.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight