Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to resign after parliament passes economic reforms demanded by the European Union, The Associated Press says.
Berlusconi met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano about an hour after the premier lost his parliamentary majority during a routine vote earlier Tuesday.
Napolitano’s office said in a statement that Berlusconi promised during the meeting to resign once the economic reforms have passed parliament, which will vote on the measures next week.
There were immediate calls for Berlusconi to step down following the vote, in which 308 voted in favour, 321 abstained and no one voted against.
Hours before the debate began, many politicians gathered outside parliament and voiced their anxiety about the current political instability in Italy, which has added turmoil in Europe and hurt global markets on Monday.
“The problem is to carry on every day in this situation, our majority is narrow now, and we have to rethink certain things about it,” said Berlusconi supporter parliamentarian Sergio di Gregorio from the prime minister’s People of Freedom Party.
“I would not want to be in Berlusconi’s shoes, having to face all the time this crisis, fighting like a lion. This crisis is serious. It is a true political crisis. We have to think about it,” di Gregorio added.
Five deputies from Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom Party (PDL) said they would abstain in the key vote on Tuesday, possibly putting his parliamentary majority at risk.
“Can we carry on like this? Can we stay there watching this slow agony of our country unfold?” asked former PDL parliamentarian Ida D’Ippolito. D’Ippolito, who recently left the prime minister’s party after 17 years of membership and has subsequently joined the Union of the Centre (UDC) party.
“I gave my answer, taking a painful decision, which is to say to my faction, they are making a mistake, that they did not help our prime minister to go take the right path, and that they cannot keep on leaving the country with these troubles,” D’Ippolito said.
Six PDL parliamentarians wrote to Berlusconi asking for a change in the government’s coalition with a broadening of the majority.
“I go to talk to him about what I wrote. I go there to look him in the eyes” said Isabella Bertolini, one of the six parliamentarians.
“I am not a traitor. I cannot accept that the press calls us traitors,” she added.
“Minister Tremonti has been promising measures since August — measures that don’t happen in the end. When he will bring those measures under discussion for a confidence vote, then I will make my own decision” she said.
The government’s borrowing costs have risen sharply.
Yields on Italy’s 10-year bonds touched another record on Tuesday morning at 6.71 per cent, a level seen as unsustainable for Italy’s massive debt and which could spiral out of control.
Italy has the third biggest economy in the euro zone and its debt worries are a huge threat in the wider crisis facing the continent’s single currency.
Berlusconi’s failure to adopt reforms swiftly to defuse the debt crisis has fuelled dissent within his party, though estimates vary widely over how many centre-right deputies will jump ship in the key vote in the lower house due in the late afternoon or early evening.