The prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, has been dealt a bitter blow by one of his closest political allies just hours before a crucial vote on public finances in parliament today.
Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League, the junior party in Berlusconi’s coalition, has urged Berlusconi to resign. Bossi proposed
Angelino Alfano as a replacement prime minister. Alfano is the secretary of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.
Bossi has in the past questioned Berlusconi’s ability to govern but has never publicly called for him to step down.
This afternoon Berlusconi faces a parliamentary vote on public finances. This is not normally something that the Italian premiere would lose sleep over, but he is currently in such a weak political position, that if he fails to achieve a convincing victory, it would be a strong indicator of a confidence vote that will almost certainly follow.
It is likely that Berlusconi will survive the finance vote in parliament; the opposition has said it will abstain, in order to highlight the premier’s lack of support.
Berlusconi is remaining defiant for now, despite mass speculation of his pending resignation causing huge swings in the Milan stock market on Monday.
But there was more bad news for him as the cost of Italy’s borrowing jumped to a new record on Tuesday morning, ahead of the vote.
Maurizio Caprara, the political correspondent for Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper, said: “Of course there is a link between his political instability and market instability. Of course, I don’t think that politics have to follow the markets, but in this case we have to defend the euro and defend our nation. So it would be better to have a government capable of taking decisions, and to govern. Until we have exactly that result, the situation will be a little bit difficult.”
As the debt worries of the euro zone’s third largest economy approach a level seen as unsustainable, posing a huge threat in the wider crisis, many across the world will have their eyes firmly fixed on the outcome of this vote.