Several of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's top aides are defying him in his bid to collapse Italy's coalition government, a rare challenge to his authority.
Carlo Giovanardi, a longtime stalwart, said on the eve of a showdown in parliament that more than 40 of Berlusconi's centre-right MPs will vote to keep Premier Enrico Letta's five-month-old government afloat. That might ensure centre-left leader Mr Letta wins any confidence vote pegged to the government's survival.
Angry that centre-left senators will vote soon to strip him of his Senate seat because of his tax-fraud conviction, Berlusconi removed his ministers from the government last week. But Berlusconi's top aide, Angelino Alfano, urged his party to back Letta.
Pressure is building on the 77-year-old media mogul to drop his bid to sabotage Letta.