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Monti loses backing as political standstill looms in Italy

Italy has taken a step closer to political gridlock as the party of former premier Berlusconi withdrew its support for Prime Minister Monti. Some see it as a sign of a government collapse and snap elections are near.

epa03498535 The President of the Italian Senate Renato Schifani (top 2-R) announces the result of the confidence vote in the Senate on a government economic-development bill, in Rome, Italy, 06 December 2012. The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) said the same day that Premier Mario Monti must consult with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano as his emergency technocrat government has effectively lost its majority in parliament. The call came after former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party announced it was deserting the confidence vote in the Senate on a government economic-development bill. 'If the government no longer has a majority, I think Monti should go to (see Napolitano at) the Quirinal Palace,' said Anna Finocchiaro, the PD's Senate whip. The government won the confidence vote as it was backed by the other parties supporting Monti's government, including the PD and the centrist UDC, and the PdL, the biggest group in parliament, did not actively vote against it. EPA/GIUSEPPE LAMI

Italien Parlament Vertrauensabstimmung

The party of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi withdrew its support for the current prime minister, Mario Monti, in a confidence vote on Thursday. Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party abstained from the vote on a package of economic measures.

The measures still passed with support from other parties who are backing Monti (pictured above), but the break by the PDL raises the prospect of snap elections, and the possible return of Berlusconi to politics.

PDL secretary Angelino Alfano said on Thursday that the party was still reviewing its position.

"If we had wanted to make [the government] fall, we would have already today given a vote of no confidence," he told reporters.

Alfano also said Berlusconi appeared likely to announce that he would run as a prime minister candidate for the PDL.

This comes despite comments from Monti's business minister, Corrado Passera, indicating he believed it would be a step backward if Berlusconi returned to politics. Alfano is seen by some within the PDL as a better candidate for the post - an indication of the divisions that are currently straining the party.

President Giorgio Napolitano said he would work to avoid a political crisis, and added that "pre-electoral political tensions" are no cause for alarm.

Elections are already scheduled to take place in April at the latest, and an early election would likely only push this forward by a few weeks.

However, depending on the scope of a potential collapse of government, certain measures - including Italy's 2013 budget - might have to be put on hold until after the elections.

mz/lw (Reuters, dpa)