SILVIO Berlusconi (pictured) plunged Italy into uncertainty yesterday after his party walked out of two key votes in parliament, raising the prospect that he could bring down the government and precipitate early elections.
In an act of political brinkmanship, his People of Freedom party (PDL) walked out of the Senate ahead of a confidence vote on a package of economic measures.
Later in the day they did the same thing in the lower house, abstaining from another vote. Mario Monti's government was still able to win both votes, but the moves were seen as sabre-rattling, designed to demonstrate Mr Berlusconi could withdraw support at any given moment.
Fabrizio Cicchitto, the leader of the PDL in the lower house, said the decision to walk out of the votes was "to show our strongly critical view" of the austerity policies of the Monti administration.
The drama came after Mr Berlusconi said he was being "besieged by requests" from his party to fight the elections in March in a bid to become prime minister for the fourth time. Should Mr Berlusconi decide to fight the elections, his chances of becoming prime minister look slim, with opinion polls showing support for his party at around 15pc. The sex scandals, which in part precipitated Mr Berlusconi's fall, are still being played out.
On Monday a court in Milan is expected to hear from "Ruby the Heart Stealer", the Moroccan-born dancer whom Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex during parties when she was an alleged underage prostitute. He denies the charges. (© Daily Telegraph, London)