2 Oct 2013

Split looming in Berlusconi party

1:18 pm on 2 October 2013

There are signs of a deep division in Silvio Berlusconi's party amidst a political crisis in Italy.

Leading figures in the People of Freedom party have defied him by calling on MPs to back the coalition government in a confidence vote on Wednesday.

Deputy leader Angelino Alfano urged the party to unite behind Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

"I am firmly convinced that our party as a whole should vote confidence in Letta tomorrow," he said.

Other People of Freedom politicians also said they backed the continuation of the coalition.

The BBC reports Mr Berlusconi, 77, appears determined to topple the coalition. It was announced on Saturday that he was pulling all his ministers out of the cabinet.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta said late on Friday that he would quit unless the government wins the confidence vote in parliament.

Mr Letta's coalition was formed in April after two months of political deadlock following an inconclusive election. It was approved by 453 votes to 153.

The BBC reports a committee of the Senate is due to decide on Mr Berlusconi's expulsion this week after the Supreme Court recently upheld a conviction for tax fraud.

He dominated Italian politics for nearly two decades before resigning in November 2011