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Berlusconi threatens to scupper confidence vote in new government

Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly said he will bring down Mario Monti’s independent government if he disapproves of its policies.

Silvio Berlusconi presents Mario Monti with a small ceremonial bell - used by prime ministers to call cabinet meetings to order.
Silvio Berlusconi presents Mario Monti with a small ceremonial bell - used by prime ministers to call cabinet meetings to order.
Image: Pier Paolo Cito/AP

FORMER ITALIAN PREMIER Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly told members of his political party that he will bring down the country’s new government if he disapproves of its policies.

BBC News says Berlusconi told his party he would ‘bring down the new government if he does not like the path it takes’.

The development comes on the day that the Chamber of Deputies – the lower house of the Italian parliament – hears from Monti on his programme for government, and votes on a motion of confidence in his leadership.

It is not likely that Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party will scupper today’s vote – having yesterday voted in favour of a similar motion of confidence in the Senate.

That vote passed by 281 votes to 25, with only one party – the Northern League, a junior partner in Berlusconi’s coalition which had forced Berlusconi out by calling for his resignation – opposing the new administration.

Monti’s address to the Senate yesterday marked his first appearance in the chamber – to which he was appointed as a lifetime member by the Italian president Giorgio Napolitano only last week.

He told senators he hoped to overhaul the country’s pension system and renew a long-standing ambition to clamp down on tax evasions. His cabinet is made up of technocrats – unelected people who are deemed to be experts in each of their fields.

The Labour minister, for example, is one of the country’s leading experts on welfare and pensions; the defence minister is a former chief of staff of the Navy, and the minister for infrastructure and development is the head of the country’s biggest retail bank.

Monti himself, an academic and economist who left academic life to take up the job at the head of the government, is himself a former European Commissioner. He has retained the finance portfolio for himself.

Monti is thought to be preparing to govern until the expiry of the current parliament – not due until 2013 – but Berlusconi’s threat to withdraw parliamentary support before then means this may not be feasible.

Any hypothetical collapse of Monti’s government would almost certainly lead to early elections – not least because the Italian voters would be opposed to having three different cabinets since the last elections in early 2008.

By comparison, the new government in Greece – a national coalition led by Lucas Papademos – won a motion of confidence in its own parliament by 255 votes to 38 on Wednesday.

His government is only expected to remain in office until early next year, when fresh elections for a newly-mandated government can be held.

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Gavan Reilly

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