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Italian Government Faces Confidence Vote

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi
The longest-serving government in post-war Italy will face a confidence vote this week. Amid the worst political crisis in four years, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has decided parliament will decide whether his government must be dissolved or not.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been under increasing pressure from his coalition allies, following a stinging defeat in local elections earlier this month. Now he is fighting for his political future.

Two parties withdrew their support from his government last week: the centrist Union of Christian Democrats and the New Italian Socialists.

Facing his worst political crisis in four years, Mr. Berlusconi met Monday with the Italian president. He decided not to resign immediately, but to put his government through a confidence vote in parliament Thursday.

Spokesmen for the opposition center-left say they cannot believe things have come to this and are calling for early general elections. The leader of the Italian Communists, Oliviero Diliberto summed up those feelings.

“It is shameful that the parliament has not pronounced itself yet. But beyond the parliamentary debate, the way to proceed is to ask Italian citizens who they want to be governed by. So, elections should be held as soon as possible,” said Mr. Diliberto.

If the governing center-right government loses Thursday's vote, it must resign. Mr. Berlusconi's government is the longest serving in post-war Italy.

Before the confidence vote, the Italian prime minister will deliver speeches Wednesday, first in the upper house and then in the lower house of parliament.

The Union of Christian Democrats had urged Mr. Berlusconi to resign and form a new government with a new platform. The prime minister refused and the party withdrew its four ministers from the government. The party has said it will continue to vote for Mr. Berlusconi's government in parliament.

But in a move that could further upset the governing coalition, the National Alliance Party says it will decide whether it too would withdraw its ministers and backing from the government.