A relieved Romano Prodi has won a crucial vote on next year’s budget. In a heated session in Italy’s Senate, the Prime Minister and his eclectic centre-left alliance narrowly won the backing of the upper house, defying opposition forecasts that the vote would topple the government. The budget, which cuts spending on state bureaucracy and lowers corporate and housing taxes, was passed by 161 votes to 157.
But with maverick senators like Lamberto Dini threatening to withdraw future support unless Prodi stops pandering to the more left-wing members in the alliance, the prospects for the government remain uncertain.
The precariousness of Prodi and his wafer thin majority of two seats in the Senate was reflected in the pre-vote debate which threw up accusations of vote buying. Angela Finocchiaro raised several allegations which have appeared in the press that money had been offered to persuade senators to alter their votes – she expressed her outrage if such blatant attempts at corruption were true.
Former premier and now opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi had been claiming that several centre-left senators were likely to defect but in the end this proved unfounded.
The budget now passes to the Chamber of Deputies, where Prodi has a much more comfortable majority.