Italian PM seeks vote of confidance amid crisis
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta is expected to appear before parliament on Wednesday for a vote of confidence, after all five members of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party resigned from government, plunging the country into crisis.
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta is expected to go before parliament for a vote of confidence on Wednesday, after all five members of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party resigned from government, plunging the country into political turmoil.
The fate of Italy’s fragile coalition government was left uncertain this weekend after the ministers suddenly quit on Saturday. The unexpected move prompted Letta to call for the vote to see whether his five-month-old government will survive the crisis.
The prime minister was set to meet with Berlusconi and the PDL on Monday afternoon, as he seeks to keep his government from collapse.
Letta may have some hope of salvaging his coalition, after the five PDL ministers who resigned this weekend all made statements expressing reservations or even outright opposition to their actions.
Speaking on RAI state television late on Sunday, Letta said the PDL ministers appeared to be at odds with Berlusconi and the parliamentary party, split between hardline “hawks” and more moderate “doves”, also seemed uncertain.
“I hope that there is a part of the PDL which is not in accord with Berlusconi,” he said.
Letta, however, has made clear that he plans to resign if he does not win the vote. “I don’t intend to govern at all costs,” the prime minister said in a televised interview on Sunday.
Italy’s coalition government has struggled since it was formed five months ago, after elections in February failed to produce a clear majority.
Tensions exploded after the Supreme Court ruled to uphold Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud in August, paving the way for him to lose his seat in Senate. A special committee is expected to vote October 4 on opening proceedings, which could lead to Berlusconi being thrown out of parliament by mid-month.
The former premier, who celebrated his 77th birthday on Sunday, brushed off talk of dissent within the PDL, telling a programme on his own Italia Uno channel that he did not believe that a government backed by “traitors” could survive.
“We’ll decide our line tomorrow and I don’t believe anyone or anything will divide us,” he said.
With Italy falling behind in its efforts to bring the budget deficit under European Union limits and youth unemployment running at nearly 40 percent, the prolonged wrangling between the parties has blocked efforts to reform the economy – the third largest in Europe – after two years of recession.
On Friday, cabinet unity collapsed after ministers failed to agree on a vital package of budget measures to cut the deficit below the EU limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product and fund measures to halt an increase in sales tax to 22 percent from 21 percent.
Berlusconi seized on the sales tax issue to pull out of the government, saying Letta had reneged on a deal to prevent the increase from coming into effect, a charge the prime minister described on Saturday as a “huge lie”.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)