Rome: Tens of thousands of people turned out for an anti-government demonstration in Rome on Saturday, three days before a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Parliament.
Berlusconi's fate depends on the vote, which is due to take place on Tuesday. If he loses, elections will be called.
Saturday's protest was organised by the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, under the motto "The Italy that wants to change".
The organisers said they expected about two million people to attend. No exact figures were given but some reports spoke of tens of thousands of protesters.
But while Berlusconi declared himself confident of collecting another million signatures in support of his government in a radio broadcast early Saturday, he was on Friday accused of attempting to buy support for the no-confidence vote.
Rome prosecutors have launched a probe into the accusations after the leader of the anti-corruption party IdV, Antonio Di Pietro, lodged a complaint. Two members of his party, as well as politicians from other parties, have defected to Berlusconi's camp over the past week.
The defections led the Milan daily Corriere della Sera on Friday to write of an "indecent market in vote buying".
Opposition politicians have spoken of dodgy dealings and corruption as well as "shamelessness".
Until recently Berlusconi had seemed likely to lose after former ally Gianfranco Fini withdrew his ministers from the coalition government in mid-November. The outcome, which will depend on just a few votes, now seems less clear.
First Published: Sunday, December 12, 2010, 08:53