Berlusconi Still Standing After Italian Confidence Vote

It's a week of improbable victories for the gaffe-prone

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On Tuesday, Silvio Berlusconi, the embattled prime minister of Italy, survived a confidence vote in the Italian parliament. Berlusconi has been implicated in a number of corruption cases and sex scandals this year. While some onlookers were inspired to start a political deathwatch, Berlusconi ended up squeaking through the confidence vote in both parliamentary houses. (The tally in the upper house was 162-135; the vote in the lower house was much narrower, at 314-311.) Riots broke out in Rome following the news. Meanwhile, Berlusconi's troubles are far from over, as the vote has only underscored what a divisive figure he is within the Italian government.

  • Opposition Leader to Berlusconi: You're Done Anyway  BBC News quotes Antonio Di Pietro, head of the opposition Italy of Values party, who told the prime minister: "Whatever the result of the vote you have bought, one thing is clear. You do not have a political majority that would allow you to govern ... Whether you like it or not, you have reached the end of the line for your political experience."
  • Rome Burns, Literally  CNN reports that "angry protesters threw rocks and bottles and police lobbed tear gas canisters Tuesday in Rome's streets" after the vote. "A crowd of several hundred protesters smashed motorcycles and police vehicles as they erupted in violence and clashed with authorities following the votes. Small fires were burning in various spots, and loud explosions could be heard from firecrackers or flash-bang devices."
  • Up Next: A Rocky Few Months, Then Possible Re-Election  "Berlusconi's majority is pizza-thin and he will struggle to govern," predicts Daniel Korski at The Spectator. "Elections may not be far off--some say six months at most. Should Italy end up at the polls, Berlusconi might actually do quite well, in part because any poll will be held under the election law he introduced."
  • Berlusconi Could Have Nine Lives, agrees David Blackburn, also at The Spectator.
Berlusconi could soldier on. But his governing coalition is extremely fragile, and Berlusconi's credibility is surely irretrievable. That said, the memory of Romano Prodi's debacle of a government casts a long shadow and the opposition left remains totally disorganised by all accounts. Plus, Berlusconi was expected to lose both votes, particularly the second, so he now has a little momentum. Will it be a case of better the devil the Italian centre and right knows?
  • Silvio Ruins Everything  "To regard Mr Berlusconi as a clown with a highly dubious sense of humour would be a mistake," declares a venomous editorial in The Independent. "His rule has been an erosion of Italian democracy." The piece goes on to indict Berlusconi's policies, his inability to fix the Italian economy, and his weak moral character, before concluding that "whatever benefits Mr Berlusconi once brought to Italy, they were long ago overtaken by the damage he inflicted."
  • Berlusconi: I'd Go Gay If Someone Asked Me  It's not clear how heavily the confidence vote was weighing on the prime minister's mind this week. BBC News reports that "at a dinner with his MPs the night before the vote, the newspaper Corriere della Sera quotes him as saying: 'I am unable to say No, I have never been able to, I've been lucky that no gay person has ever come to proposition me.'"

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