Berlusconi warns of crisis ahead of crucial vote
ROME: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warned members of parliament they risked plunging Italy into the middle of the euro zone's debt crisis if they vote against him in a no-confidence vote due on Tuesday.
Speaking in parliament a day before a showdown that could force him from office and trigger early elections, Berlusconi said his government had kept Italy out of the crisis but that the threat of instability remained.
"It is madness to initiate a crisis without any foreseeable solutions," he said in a speech to the Senate.
The government can be assured of a majority for a confidence motion it has called in the Senate.
But the outlook in the lower house, where the opposition has brought its own noconfidence motion on the same day, is less certain and could be decided by one or two votes. Some commentators estimate a result as close as 314 votes for Berlusconi against 313 for the combined opposition is possible.
The prime minister can no longer count on a lower house majority following a split in July with former ally Gianfranco Fini and a group of supporters who broke away from the ruling PDL party and formed a center-right group of their own.
But the result of Tuesday's vote is finely balanced after days of intense lobbying to persuade wavering rebel deputies to support the government.
Berlusconi said on Monday if he defeated the noconfidence motion, he would open up his government to other forces from the center and center-right, in an appeal to so-called "doves" in the rebel camp not to bring the government down.
Berlusconi's leadership credentials have been undermined this year by scandals that forced three members of the government to resign, an uproar over his fondness for parties and young women and a scandal over garbage collection in Naples.
Speaking to reporters earlier, the 74-year-old premier said he was confident he had the numbers to survive the vote. "I am serene, optimistic and confident as I always am," he told reporters as he went into a cabinet meeting that will sign off on the Senate confidence motion. -Reuters
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