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Italian Prime Minister Faces Confidence Vote

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's center-left government has won the first of two votes in parliament as it fought for political survival. The second vote in the upper house will be held Thursday evening. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

Romano Prodi's center-left coalition won the confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies by 326 - 275. He has a comfortable majority in the lower chamber and a defeat for the governing coalition was not expected.

The Italian prime minister, in power for 20 months, has been facing growing pressure for resignation ahead of a second vote of confidence Thursday in the upper house, where his coalition does not have a majority, at least on paper.

Mr. Prodi's coalition government has been shaky from the start, but it was thrown into turmoil Monday after the UDEUR Christian Democratic party led by former Justice Minister Clemente Mastella announced it is withdrawing its support.

Mastella resigned his ministerial post last week after he and his wife, a senior official in the southern Campania region, were placed under investigation in a corruption probe.

The fate of the 68-year-old prime minister depends on whether he can muster enough support in the upper house to compensate for losing the UDEUR's three seats. He relies for his political survival on seven unelected lifetime senators.

Ordinary Italians, who have seen 61 governments come and go since the end of World War II, have mixed feelings about the latest government crisis.

This woman, who gave her name as Anna, says the crisis is irrational and that she feels the country should be returned into the hands of former center right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Another woman, Costanza, says fragmentation and division are difficult to do away with. She says the political forces should focus on peoples' needs and on the need for a modern country that works.

But some Italians are resigned to way things have always been.

Alessandro says people need to get used to these crises because whoever heads the government, whether the left or the right, ends the same way. He says political instability in Italy is a constant.