Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition survived a vote of confidence in parliament on Friday but its slim margin of victory left persistent doubts over its ability to govern effectively and raised expectations of elections in early 2012, a year ahead of schedule.
The alliance of Mr Berlusconi’s People of Liberty (PDL) party and the Northern League of Umberto Bossi escaped defeat by 316 votes to 301 in Italy’s lower house of parliament, which has a total of 630 deputies.
The government’s success in securing an absolute majority – by just one vote – will be seen as a boost for the 75-year-old prime minister who has led three centre-right administrations since 1994. But opposition parties took heart that his majority is eroding after four of his long-standing allies deserted the government.
Faced with the prospect of the coalition going under, which most likely would have led to them losing their jobs, “dissident” MPs within Mr Berlusconi’s faction-ridden party buckled under and voted in favour of the government.
Berlusconi continues to embarrass and weaken an already embarrassed and weak nation, at a time when solid leadership is needed. Italy’s chances of a reasonably quick and steady recovery are slim to begin with. They are doomed to more pain and misery without proper governance. Berlusconi may have won a confidence vote, but the Italians have nothing to be confident about. The worst is yet to come.