Berlusconi's ally calls for premier's resignation
Italy's opposition presented a no-confidence motion against Premier Silvio Berlusconi yesterday, setting the stage for a showdown in parliament that could spell the end of the government.
The opposition Democratic Party and the allied Italy of Values party co-sponsored the motion in the lower Chamber of Deputies. No date has been set for it to be discussed.
Mr Berlusconi's government has been in a tailspin for months, fuelled most recently by allegations of his involvement with prostitutes and a 17-year-old Moroccan girl.
But the political crisis accelerated over the weekend when his estranged ally Gianfranco Fini formally called on him to resign and remake a strengthened coalition.
Mr Berlusconi refused.
The no-confidence motion will now force Mr Fini and his allies, whose support is crucial to the premier, to choose whether to support him or bring the government down.
Democratic Party leader Pierluigi Bersani urged Mr Fini and his allied lawmakers to vote with the opposition, saying: "I would like to believe that all those who think that this phase is finished be coherent and this is the occasion to show it."
Italy's centre-left opposition has to date been unable to capitalise on mounting dissatisfaction with Mr Berlusconi's efforts to pass a law that would spare him and other top office holders from prosecution while in office.
But Mr Berlusconi's (74) dalliances with younger women have now cost him support from some conservative supporters and appear to have been the final straw that prompted Mr Fini to issue his weekend ultimatum: resign or face the consequences.
Mr Berlusconi still has an outlet that would keep him in power: In Italy's Byzantine politics, prime ministers can resign, and have done so, only to receive a new mandate with a strengthened coalition.
Berlusconi himself did that during his previous stint in power from 2001 to 2006.
Mr Fini had said he was willing to be in an alliance with Mr Berlusconi to spare Italy early elections but that the premier had to resign and revise the government and present a new legislative agenda that includes his proposals to relaunch the economy and change Italy's electoral law.
It was not clear if, faced with a no-confidence motion, Mr Berlusconi would re-evaluate Mr Fini's offer.