Berlusconi pushes through austerity bill but no wiggle room left with public
ON the ropes for months over an ever-escalating sex scandal, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi got some good news yesterday when his government won a confidence vote on a €54bn hugely unpopular austerity plan.
Italy's 630-seat lower house voted 316 to 302 in favour of the government.
The focus now shifts to whether a weak and scandal-plagued government can implement the promised reforms and if even more austerity measures will be needed to head off a crisis that has driven Italy's borrowing costs close to unmanageable levels.
The vote came as Berlusconi found himself at the centre of fresh controversy after claims emerged he had insulted Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. Berlusconi is accused of making a disgusting comment about her during a telephone conversation with a newspaper editor. The alleged remarks -- too vulgar to repeat but referred to sex and Mrs Merkel's physique -- were picked up by investigators probing a e750,000 blackmail plot against Italy's leader.
In the past Berlusconi has been criticised for his appointments of attractive women such Elvira Savino (above), an MP and member of his party.