Silvio Berlusconi admits defeat in campaign against Italian government

A clearly dejected Silvio Berlusconi, left, after Prime Minister Enrico Letta easily won the confidence vote in the Italian Senate.

Silvio Berlusconi has been defeated in his attempts to bring down the Italian government after his party voted to support the coalition of premier Enrico Letta.

Mr Letta easily won the confidence vote in the Italian Senate, allowing him to keep his coalition alive.

The actual vote was an anticlimax after Berlusconi acknowledged defeat and said he would support Mr Letta after defections in his party robbed him of the backing he needed.

In brief remarks before the vote, Berlusconi said: “Italy needs a government that can produce structural and institutional reforms that the country needs to modernise. We have decided, not without internal strife, to vote in confidence.”

It was a huge setback for Berlusconi who had demanded his five cabinet ministers quit the government and bring it down.

He is incensed at a vote planned for Friday that could strip him of his Senate seat following his tax fraud conviction and four-year prison sentence.

Mr Letta had hailed his five-month-old government’s successes and outlined his agenda to revive Italy’s moribund economy and turn around its record unemployment.

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party has been badly divided ever since Italy’s high court upheld his tax fraud conviction and sentence in August.

It has been thrown into chaos now that several MPs and his closest ally and political heir, Angelino Alfano, openly defied him.

Mr Letta appealed to MPs’ sense of duty to not create any more upheaval, which has caused Italy untold financial loss in recent years.

He said: “The majority of Italians are telling us I should say they are yelling at us that they can’t take any more of these scenes of bloodshed in the political arena, and (politicians) who fight over everything but nothing ever changes,” he said.

Many Italians, are disgusted that the government was essentially teetering over the legal woes of a single man, since the crisis began over Berlusconi’s attempt to avoid being kicked out of the Senate for his tax fraud conviction.

A law passed in 2012 says anyone receiving sentences longer than two years cannot hold public office for six years.

Berlusconi has challenged the law’s constitutionality and has accused judges who handed down the sentence of trying to eliminate him from Italy’s political life.