Berlusconi U-turn secures Italian government’s survival

by
October 2, 2013

ROME | Italian center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi promised to support Prime Minister Enrico Letta in a confidence vote on Wednesday, staging a U-turn only days after he provoked a crisis by pulling his ministers out of the government.

Berlusconi abruptly changed course as dozens of rebels in his center-right People of Freedom party prepared to vote for Letta. “We have decided, not without some internal strife, to support the government,” the media tycoon told the Senate at the end of a sometimes fiery debate.

His decision leaves Letta in office but opens a series of questions about the already fragmented Italian political landscape, including whether the coalition government will be able to operate normally and pass badly needed economic reforms.

Berlusconi’s declaration capped a day that veered between high drama and what one centrist politician called a farce, as a flood of defections from his party persuaded the 77-year-old billionaire that there was no point in continuing resistance.

Financial markets, already buoyed by confidence that Letta would win, reacted positively. Shares on the Milan bourse rose nearly two percent and yields on 10-year government bonds fell to a low for the day of 4.34 percent.

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