ROME — Silvio Berlusconi made a stunning about-face today and threw his support behind the government of Premier Enrico Letta in a confidence vote, acknowledging defeat on the Senate floor after defections in his party robbed him of the backing he needed to bring down the government.
The three-time premier took the floor in an unexpected address after Letta made an impassioned plea to keep his 5-month-old left-right coalition alive.
“Italy needs a government that can produce structural and institutional reforms that the country needs to modernize,” Berlusconi said in his brief remarks. “We have decided, not without internal strife, to vote in confidence.”
The Senate then voted to back Letta 235-70 with 14 abstentions and one absence. It was a major setback for Berlusconi, who over the weekend had demanded his five Cabinet ministers quit the government and bring it down, incensed at a vote planned Friday that could strip him of his Senate seat following his tax fraud conviction and four-year prison sentence.