20th Feb 2020

Berlusconi narrowly wins confidence vote

  • Lucky - but politically damaged all the same (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly won a vote of confidence Friday, cementing his reputation as something of a Houdini of his country's politics where he has reigned almost uninterrupted since 1994.

In a vote watched by most of Europe, Berlusconi managed to get 316 votes in favour with 301 deputies voting against him. The outcome represented an absolute majority of just one vote.

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It was the 53rd such vote since 2008 but arguably among the most dangerous to his post as deputies within his own party are openly disgruntled.

In addition the stakes are at an arguable all time high both for Italy itself and the wider eurozone, with the country suffering from high public debt and sluggish growth.

For some time now, analysts have warning that the eurozone debt crisis that has engulfed Greece, Ireland and Portugal, resulting in each of these countries being bailed out, could spread to Italy.

The eurozone so far does not have the financial means nor the political appetite to deal with such an event.

Italy's labyrinth politics as well as the prime minister's many gaffes and scandals, and the semi-public war with his respected finance minister Giulio Tremonti, has trapped the country in a state of acute political uncertainty.

This was cited a key reason for the recent credit downgrades by ratings agencies Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's.

Berlusconi, who called the confidence vote after his government failed on Tuesday to secure a routine vote for approval of the 2010 public accounts, has continued to say that he will stay in office until the end of his term in 2013.

He argues that Italy needs him in a time of crisis and that the left does not have a credible alternative. His critics argue that his government has failed to come up with any initiatives to boost economic growth, sluggish for several years now.

Sony Kapoor, managing director of Re-Define, an economic think tank, says: "The best signal that Italy could have sent to the markets would have been to boot Mr Berlusconi out, but it has failed to do so."

"Italy is fundamentally solvent, but a bit more time under Mr Berlusconi, and it may no longer be," he added.

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