In a startling move,a shaken Silvio Berlusconi stood before the Senate in Italy on Wednesday and announced that his centre-right party would support the fragile coalition government,a dramatic reversal after he had spent days vowing to bring down the government and force new elections.
The backing of Berlusconis People of Freedom Party allowed the prime minister,Enrico Letta,to easily win a confidence vote in the Italian Senate on Wednesday afternoon. Letta is expected to win a similar vote in the lower house of Parliament,where he commands a secure majority,later in the day.
Putting together the expectations and the fact that Italy needs a government that produces institutional and structural reforms,we have decided to vote for the confidence motion,not without internal pain, Berlusconi said.
His appearance came after a wrenching 24 hours in which many of his key lieutenants had rejected his push to topple the coalition government.
Earlier Wednesday,Letta made a passionate plea on behalf of his coalition,warning lawmakers that political instability could send the country into a deeper economic crisis and imploring them to show the rest of Europe that Italy is ready to tackle difficult reforms.
Letta had called for the confidence vote in response to a crisis sparked last week,when Berlusconi ordered his partys government ministers to resign from the coalition.
Facing serious legal problems and a prison term,Berlusconi had calculated that forcing fresh elections might provide him with new political life.
But Berlusconi was confronted with an unexpected rebellion among many lawmakers in his party,with some saying publicly that they would vote in support of Lettas government.