Italy`s Berlusconi survives test with arrest vote

The vote by secret ballot was a key test of the cohesiveness of Berlusconi`s majority.

Updated: Sep 22, 2011, 23:31 PM IST

Rome: Premier Silvio Berlusconi narrowly
survived a test in Parliament on Thursday after lawmakers decided
not to lift the immunity of an allied deputy under
investigation in a corruption probe.

Lawmakers in the lower Chamber of Deputies voted 312-306
to keep parliamentary immunity intact for Marco Milanese, a
former top aide to Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti. Italian
lawmakers enjoy immunity from arrest unless they vote to lift
it.

The vote by secret ballot was a key test of the
cohesiveness of Berlusconi`s majority. If Berlusconi`s allies
had turned on him and lifted Milanese`s immunity, it would
have sent a strong signal of divisions within the majority.

It would have also reflected poorly on Tremonti, the
respected architect of Italy`s austerity measures as the
country struggles to avoid being sucked into Europe`s debt
crisis.
Berlusconi said he was satisfied with the outcome but
declined further comment.

But according to vote breakdowns in the Italian media, at
least seven Berlusconi allies did vote to have Milanese
arrested, taking advantage of the secret ballot to break
ranks. Their numbers, however, weren`t enough to affect the
final outcome.

Milanese resigned as Tremonti`s political adviser after
he was caught up in June in a corruption probe in which he was
accused by Naples prosecutors of allegedly passing on
confidential information in exchange for money and services.
He denies the accusations.

Bureau Report