Four ministers have resigned from Italy's government in a sign that support for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is waning. The ministers are supporters of parliamentary speaker Gianfranco Fini, a Berlusconi rival.
Berlusconi's support is waning in Italy
Political problems in Italy continue to escalate as four ministers - Europe Minister Andrea Ronchi, Deputy Economic Development Minister Adolfo Urso and two junior ministers - resigned from their posts in the government on Monday.
"We all agree today that we need to move to a new phase in the Italian centre-right," said Urso on news channel SkyTG24 Monday.
The resignations indicate waning support for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The four ministers who resigned are all supporters of former Berlusconi ally-turned-rival Gianfranco Fini, who is speaker of the parliament.
Fini and his supports in the Future and Freedom movement hope to see Berlusconi resign. The demand follows the latest in a long-running series of sex-scandal allegations involving Berlusconi.
Earlier in the month, Fini had threatened to start pulling ministers out of the government if Berlusconi didn't step down. Monday's resignations show Fini made good on his promise.
Budget comes first
However, Berlusconi has called for a vote of confidence in parliament and would be willing to face political rivals at the polls if snap elections are deemed necessary.
Fini would like to see Berlusconi resign
But such a vote is not likely to come before the Italian government passes its 2011 budget in the coming weeks, a decision which is itself a thorny issue due to Italy's massive debt problem.
The political turmoil could play out in a number of different ways in Italy. Should Berlusconi lose a vote of confidence, it would be up to President Giorgio Napolitano to decide if the existing parliament could form a new government. Napolitano could also appoint an interim government until new elections can take place. If no agreement can be reached on a new government, parliament would be dissolved and snap elections would take place within 70 days.
Author: Matt Zuvela (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner