Berlusconi’s Majority Unravels, Fueling Calls for Resignation

Though Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a parliamentary vote on Tuesday, his inability to mobilize an absolute majority is fueling further calls for him to resign as he struggles to implement important budget cuts to secure European Central Bank purchases of Italian debt.

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The 630-seat Chamber of Deputies approved the budgetary measure with 308 votes, according to Speaker Gianfranco Fini. The lower house failed to pass the measure in an initial ballot last month as Berlusconi’s majority began to unravel, prompting a confidence motion that the premier won with 316 votes on October 14.

Since last month’s confidence vote, Berlusconi’s party has been riddled with defections that have further reduced his majority. After today’s vote, opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani, of the Democratic Party, called on Berlusconi to resign. “We all know that Italy runs the real risk of not being able to access the financial markets in the next few days,” said Bersani. “The government doesn’t have a majority.”

Three members of the premier’s own party have defected to the opposition, while six others have called on him to resign, further eroding investor confidence in Berlusconi’s ability to revamp the economy as pledged to the European Union back in August. Umberto Bossi, the leader of Berlusconi’s key Northern League ally, has also urged him to step aside, according to the Ansa news agency. Today’s result may lead President Giorgio Napolitano to again call on Berlusconi to face a confidence vote.

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“So long as Berlusconi is in power, there will be no confidence that the government will be able to push through reform,” said Sarah Hewin, senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank in London. “Berlusconi’s defeat or resignation is the starting point for Italy to move forward.”