Riots in Rome as Berlusconi wins confidence vote

Riot police clashed with protesters last night in Rome's worst violence for years after Italy's tainted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly won a confidence vote that saved his government from collapse.

Despite a damning wave of sleaze scandals and new WikiLeaks allegations about his business dealings, the premier survived the greatest challenge to his hold on power by just three votes, sparking fights inside parliament amid claims of vote rigging.

Outside, the authorities blocked off the centre of Rome after masked demonstrators threw flares at the Senate in protest. More than 100 people were injured, including 60 police officers, as protesters set cars alight and hurled cobblestones at police. By the evening 40 protesters had been taken into police custody. Thousands more took part in rallies across Italy, including one in Milan, where protesters broke into the stock exchange building.

The vote was a major blow for the combined opposition and rebel centre-right MPs who, despite mounting allegations, failed to unseat the 74-year-old premier after two dissidents swapped sides at the last moment. There were also claims that one of the decisive votes was obtained by threats. Mr Berlusconi's leader in the Senate, Maurizio Gasparri, was spotted sticking a finger up at a television image of the premier's defeated rival, Gianfranco Fini.

The conservative premier secured 314 votes in his favour with 311 against and two abstentions in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies lower house. His government had earlier won a comfortable majority in the upper house.

Before the vote, Mr Berlusconi had stressed the need to avoid bringing down his government in a time of economic and financial uncertainty. However, analysts at Italian bank UniCredit said political uncertainty would "only be dissipated in case of a clear majority".

Analysts predicted that the narrow majority would lead to continuing rocky government. "With a majority of three, and it might become less over time, it's extremely difficult to govern," said Paul Ginsborg, professor of contemporary history at the University of Florence.

The consensus emerging yesterday was that Mr Berlusconi's government would stagger on for now, but that fresh elections were likely in the new year, despite it having an official mandate till 2013. Thanks to Italy's fragmented and dysfunctional party political system, however, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Mr Berlusconi could be re-elected then, as the head of the largest single grouping.

Mr Berlusconi is unlikely to heal the bitter rift between himself and the centre-right rebels led by lower house speaker Gianfranco Fini, his former coalition ally. "You can give us lessons on how to become rich, but certainly not on how to stop the political decay," Italo Bocchino, Mr Fini's top lieutenant, told the premier in parliament yesterday.

Mr Berlusconi's government has been accused of bribing wavering MPs to get vital last-minute votes – something it has denied. Fists flew in the chamber following insults aimed at Catia Polidori, one of Mr Fini's supporters who decided to vote with the government at the last moment.

Mr Fini's political standing has been severely dented after failing to bring down Mr Berlusconi. He split from his former ally after months of bickering over policy differences and unhappiness over Mr Berlusconi's sex and financial scandals. Former anti-corruption judge Antonio Di Pietro, who now heads the opposition Italy of Values party, told MPs that the Prime Minister "was not in politics to serve the country but only for his personal affairs"; an accusation underlined by fresh WikiLeaks claims that Mr Berlusconi's government deliberately set out to help the mogul's broadcast empire at the expense of arch-rival Sky Italia.

One historian, Ernesto Galli della Loggia, writing in Corriere della Sera, noted that Mr Berlusconi had merely shown his ability to win elections. He said that despite completely dominating Italian politics for the past 15 years, the billionaire mogul had achieved little of note for the country. Italy is the only European nation where the average person is poorer than he or she was 10 years ago.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam