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Berlusconi offers pact to rebels ahead of no confidence vote

posted 13 Dec 2010, 11:44 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 13 Dec 2010, 11:46 ]

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to welcome rebel centre-right deputies back to his government in a speech in the lower house of parliament a day ahead of a no confidence vote on his government.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to welcome rebel centre-right deputies back to his government on Monday (December 13) as he sought to lift support ahead of a no confidence vote on Tuesday (December 14) that could turn on just one or two votes.

In a conciliatory speech in the lower house, Berlusconi said he would be willing to open the government to "moderates" if he survives the vote on Tuesday which could drive him from office and trigger early elections.

Berlusconi has been in an up beat mood all day, thriving on these situations. Before beginning his speech as he rose to the microphone, his supporters loudly applauded their leader.

"Too much applause may be bad for me," he joked before beginning his speech.

"If the no confidence motion is rejected, as I believe it will be, from tomorrow we will work to rebuild the moderate bloc," Berlusconi told deputies. "We will work to enlarge the government team."

On Tuesday, dubbed "B-Day" by Italian media, Berlusconi faces a no confidence motion in the lower house called by opposition and rebel centre-right deputies and a confidence vote the government has tabled in the Senate where it has a majority.

The 74 year-old media tycoon no longer enjoys a lower house majority following a bitter split in July with former ally Gianfranco Fini and a group of rebel centre-right deputies who have broken away from the ruling PDL party.

Monday's offer, aimed at wavering Fini loyalists and the smaller centrist parties, followed an intense campaign of lobbying and promises described by adversaries variously as a "cattle market" or "football transfer season".

Some commentators estimate a result as close as 314 votes for Berlusconi against 313 for the opposition is possible.

The result of the Senate vote is expected at around 11.30 a.m. (1030 GMT), with the lower house result likely after 1.30 p.m. (1230 GMT).