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Thousands protest in Rome against Berlusconi

ROME (Reuters) - Thousands of demonstrators took part in a protest against Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on Saturday, days after the Italian Prime Minister survived a confidence vote in parliament that could have triggered early elections.

The latest “No B Day” protest adds to an angry climate in Italian politics which has been overshadowed for months by infighting in the ruling center-right party.

The feud between Berlusconi and his former ally Gianfranco Fini has prompted criticism from groups ranging from business to unions and senior members of the Catholic Church that Italy’s political leaders were ignoring the country’s real problems.

A series of corruption scandals that have implicated associates of the prime minister, a youth unemployment rate of more than 25 percent, shrinking spending power and uncertain prospects for the economy have contributed to a bitter mood.

“It really turns your stomach, all this stuff, this mafia in Italian politics. We’ve had enough,” said Valeria Leggeri, a protestor at the march on Saturday.

Demonstrators, many dressed in the purple of the “Popolo Viola,” a movement mobilized through social networking groups, chanted calls for the prime minister to resign and waved rubber figures satirizing Berlusconi and his ministers.

The future of the center-right government remains in the balance after the confidence vote on Wednesday, which it only won with the consent of the rebel group of deputies loyal to Fini and most commentators expect new conflict to break out.

Saturday’s demonstration was joined by opposition parties including the Italy of Values party, which called for new elections as soon as possible.

“The government is dead, we’ve understood that. Fini should administer the last rites,” said Stefano Pedica, an Italy of Values senator.

“We want Fini to accept his responsibilities and say ‘Enough is enough, we need new elections’,” he said.

Reporting by Antonio Denti; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Tony Austin