Berlusconi’s last minute plea

Italian
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has called on legislators not to jeopardise
the government out of narrow political interests, as he faces votes of
confidence.

Speaking
to the Senate, he said Italy needed operational continuity, and ousting him
would create a “crisis in the dark”.

Those
seeking to remove him would be unable to form a government, he said.

If
he loses, Mr Berlusconi has said there will be early elections.

Mr
Berlusconi’s political career – though not his marriage – has survived a string
of scandals over his relationships with women.

In
November he was embroiled in a scandal over a 17-year-old dancer called Ruby,
who was released from police custody after his personal intervention. He denied
any improper conduct, saying he had simply pitied her plight.

“I
understand those who would challenge the government, opening a crisis leading
to fresh elections or at least proposing a different prime minister, whilst
being sure of the ability to form a new governing majority,” he said in
his speech.

“However,
I cannot understand the spirit of those who want to trigger, at all costs, a
crisis in the dark.”

While
he is expected to win in the Senate, The Chamber House, the lower house, vote
will be much tighter and could come down to one or two votes.

He
proposed a “legislative pact” with centre-right forces – members of
his rival Gianfranco Fini’s Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) political
movement, whose defections triggered the crisis, and the opposition Union of
the Centre (UDC) party.

Dozens
of the prime minister’s supporters have left, depriving him of his automatic
majority in the lower house.

Mr
Fini says Mr Berlusconi’s personal scandals, gaffes and failed policy programme
make his position untenable.

An
investigation has been launched into claims that inducements have been offered
to some members of parliament to secure their vote for Mr Berlusconi.

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