Prodi Survives Confidence Vote

After his resignation last week, the Italian prime minister received a passing vote from the senate. He now faces a vote in the lower house

Italian prime minister Romano Prodi narrowly survived a confidence vote on Wednesday (28 February) after his fractious, nine-month long centre-left coalition government received 162 to 157 votes in Italy's Senate.

Mr Prodi handed in his resignation last week after senators from the ruling coalition party voted down his plans to expand a US airbase in northern Italy and keep Italian troops with NATO forces in Afghanistan, where Italy has nearly 2,000 soldiers.

Mr Prodi was not obliged to step down after the vote on the non-binding foreign policy motion in the senate - the legislature's upper house - but he insisted that he needed clear support for his cabinet to pursue Italy's international commitments.

President Giorgio Napolitano asked him to stay on and put his cabinet to a confidence vote in parliament.

"I'm very satisfied," Mr Prodi said after the vote, according to AP.

Mr Prodi has to face another confidence vote in the lower house of deputies on Friday (2 March) but Wednesday's vote was the toughest as the senate is almost evenly split between the ruling centre-left and the conservative opposition, which could have easily swung the vote.

Mr Prodi was backed by 158 elected senators and four life-appointed senators - giving him just two ballots more than the required majority.

Had he lost the vote, he would have been constitutionally obliged to step down.

TOWER OF PISA "The government is like the Tower of Pisa - It leans, but it doesn't fall," said justice minister Clemente Mastella after the vote, according to press reports.

Addressing lawmakers earlier in the day, Mr Prodi defended his government's efforts to cut the country's growing budget deficit and his plan to uphold the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, saying he was working for a political solution to the crisis affecting the country.

The former European Commission president took office in May last year after defeating Silvio Berlusconi in the closest general election in modern Italian history.

However, Mr Prodi still faces a big challenge with his coalition ranging from moderate Catholics to communists and with only a one seat majority in the senate his disparate coalition remains as vulnerable as ever, analysts say according to BBC news.

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