ROME: Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi yesterday abandoned his bid to topple the government, voting for a confidence vote in a humiliating climbdown after key allies rebelled against his leadership.
“We have decided to vote for confidence, not without internal disputes,” Berlusconi said before the vote in parliament called after he launched his challenge to the leadership on Saturday.
Berlusconi said he had changed his mind after hearing Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s promise to lower taxes and mindful of the need for reforms. Letta, who had been tipped to win with just a handful of votes just minutes before Berlusconi’s U-turn, ended up sweeping the vote with a crushing majority of 235 senators in favour and 70 against.
The surprise about-turn made victory for Letta’s coalition a certainty. Letta shook his head as Berlusconi, who has dominated political life for much of the past two decades but has been on the decline, was speaking and the address was followed by stunned silence.
Giacomo Marramao, a politics professor at Roma Tre university, said the result showed a “decline in credibility” and signalled a split in Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party.
“I think we are seeing the final chapter of Berlusconi’s political life,” Marramao said.
Letta had earlier asked lawmakers to vote for him, saying Italians were tired of “blood in the arena”. “Italy runs a risk that could be a fatal risk. Seizing this moment or not depends on us, on a yes or a no,” Letta said in his address to the Senate.