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Blow to Berlusconi as allies vote against him

Blow to Berlusconi as allies vote against him
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In Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has lost a vote which has highlighted the growing divisions in his government.

Parliament has agreed to allow the arrest of a member of his party on charges of corruption.

The Northern League, Berlusconi’s coalition partners, backed the vote to lift the immunity on the arrest of Alfonso Papa defeating the government by 29 votes.

Papa is also charged with abetting illegal activity. The prime minister, who depends on the Northern League for his majority repeatedly called on his partners not to go against him and Papa who protested his innocence.

“I speak in one of the most dramatic moments of my personal life, in a fight for my freedom. I do not think that I should have to come before parliament and ask them to defend me because I am innocent,” he told parliament.

This result is seen as another example of Berlusconi struggling to keep control of his squabbling government.

The Northern League’s decision is its most flagrant break with the PDL and, say analysts, increases the chances of a collapse of the governing coalition and an early election before the scheduled in two years time.