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Letta forces Berlusconi U-turn


ROME – Italy’s Premier Enrico Letta has won a confidence vote after a last-minute U-turn by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi had initially demanded that five ministers from his centre-right People of Freedom party leave the government, prompting the vote. But he backed down when it became clear that several of his senators would back the government.

Letta had earlier said that if he were defeated in the vote, it might prove fatal for Italy.

The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says senior figures in Berlusconi’s party had indicated they would not support him, and it was clear he had badly overreached himself.

Our correspondent says Berlusconi, a three-time prime minister, has been forced into a humiliating climb-down and will emerge a weakened figure with his capacity to influence Italian politics diminished.

When he finally rose to speak in the Senate, Berlusconi said: “Italy needs a government that can produce structural and institutional reforms. We have decided, not without internal strife, to back the confidence vote.” (BBC) 

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