Letta to put govt to confidence vote on Wednesday
Berlusconi's party split after ministers quit left-right admin30 September, 12:16
(ANSA) - Rome, September 30 - Premier Enrico Letta has said he will put his government to confidence votes in parliament on Wednesday after the grand-coalition executive was thrown into crisis at the weekend when ministers from Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party quit.
Tension has been bubbling up within the alliance supporting Letta's administration since the supreme court upheld a tax-fraud conviction against Berlusconi last month, but it spilled over on Saturday when five PdL ministers heeded the ex-premier's call for them to quit.
Despite this, there is a possibility that Letta's government will pass Wednesday's confidence tests as the PdL is deeply divided over the move to spark off a political crisis just as the country is showing signs of emerging from its longest recession in over two decades.
Indeed, all five PdL ministers have expressed reservations about the direction their party, which is being revamped and reverting to its former name, Forza Italia (FI), is taking.
Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, the PdL secretary, even said Sunday that he may become a "different sort of Berlusconi-ite" if the party becomes "extremist".
The PdL, which is divided between doves like Alfano and hawks who approve of Berlusconi's hard line, will have what looks set to be a tense meeting later on Monday.
President Giorgio Napolitano, who has a key role in times of government crisis, has indicted he will only dissolve parliament for fresh elections if there is no chance of Letta continuing or a new government being formed.
Berlusconi has called for new elections to be held as soon as possible.
But there are fears that a return to the polls under the current dysfunctional election law will only led to a similarly inconclusive result to February's general election, which led to two months of deadlock that only ended when the PdL and Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (Pd) formed an unnatural alliance. There is speculation that Letta may be able to continue at the helm of government if he can muster support from rebels from the PdL and from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) in the Senate.
The PD, the biggest group in parliament, has a comfortable majority in the Lower House.
If the government loses the confidence vote, Napolitano may give someone a mandate to form a short-term administration tasked with passing the 2014 budget law and reforming the election system, so a new vote can then be held.