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Pro-Berlusconi rallies held across Italy

After tens of thousands of Italians took to the streets of Rome in protest of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday, supporters of the embattled leader rallied on Sunday ahead of an upcoming confidence vote.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

The 74-year-old is down but not out

Supporters of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rallied in cities across Italy on Sunday, ahead of a nail-biting vote of confidence next week which could bring down his center-right government.

In Rome, thousands gathered to watch a video message from Berlusconi, in which he bullishly defied his opponents both in and outside parliament.

Italian PD Democratic party demonstrators in Rome

'The Italy that wants change' protested in Rome

"I will secure the vote of confidence," Berlusconi said in the message, which had been broadcast on Saturday but was repeated as Berlusconi was unable to address the crowd directly due to technical problems.

Similar demonstrations were staged in about 100 towns and cities, after Berlusconi called for supporters to rally in response to an anti-government protest staged in Rome on Saturday.

Tens of thousands took to the streets Saturday in marches organized by the center-left opposition Democratic Party (PD) under the slogan "The Italy that wants to change."

Berlusconi's time is up: Fini

In his video message, Berlusconi accused his opponents - in particular the breakaway faction of former ally Gianfranco Fini - of using slander and lies to betray voters.

Fini said on Sunday that Berlusconi would lose the critical vote of confidence facing him in the coming week.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but I believe Berlusconi will not have the confidence," said Fini, once a powerful ally but now a bitter rival, in an interview on Italian public television.

"We find ourselves in a situation of political crisis with this government," added Fini, who is the lower house speaker.

The confidence vote will be held in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, on Tuesday, before which Berlusconi is expected to give a key speech in front of the Senate on the origins of the political crisis.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight

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