ROME Nov 26 Italy's centre-right leader Silvio
Berlusconi said on Tuesday his party was still undecided on
whether to withdraw its support for Prime Minister Enrico
Letta's government, just hours before a confidence vote over the
Letta is expected to win the vote without Berlusconi, but
the primarily procedural move has nonetheless brought the clash
between the two to a head.
A broad left-right coalition, formed after February's
deadlocked national election, has supported Letta since April.
Berlusconi, however, prompted a split in his party when he tried
and failed to bring down the government last
The rift has left 30 centre-right senators and 27 deputies
supporting the government, which is enough to guarantee its
"The government is in such confusion that it still has not
written a definitive version and so we have not been able to
read it," Berlusconi, a media magnate, said of the budget
package during an interview with one of his TV channels.
But his Forza Italia party, whose lawmakers will meet in the
afternoon to make their decision, is widely expected to break
with the government and go into open opposition.
Tensions are running high ahead of a vote to strip
Berlusconi of his Senate seat after a tax-fraud conviction in
August. The vote, for which Berlusconi has called street rallies
to protest, is expected late on Wednesday.
If stripped of his Senate seat, Berlusconi would lose
immunity from arrest and from being wiretapped by investigators
as he faces at least two other criminal probes and appeals a
conviction for paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
The object of the Tuesday vote - the budget - includes some
tax cuts on labour costs but the European Commission has warned
the tax and spending plans might not achieve debt reduction
Confidence votes limit the scope for time-consuming
amendments and are regularly called to speed legislation. It is
just one part of the budget's passage through parliament, which
must be completed by the end of the year.