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.

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery NurseI am currently...

KS2 Teacher

£21000 - £34000 per annum + Excellent rates of pay, CPD, Support : Randstad Ed...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse required for ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album