image: Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi meets journalists in Milan.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi meets journalists Sunday in Milan, Italy.
updated 6/21/2011 2:05:47 PM ET 2011-06-21T18:05:47

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday it would be "folly" for him to quit two years ahead of term, warning that political instability would leave the country prey to financial speculators.

Hours after winning a confidence vote, he told lawmakers it is important the government remain in power until its five year term ends in 2013 to "avoid ending up like other European countries which are bleeding."

Berlusconi clinched a morale-boosting win in the lower Chamber of Deputies earlier Tuesday in a vote tied to legislation. It was the first parliamentary test of his staying power since two stinging defeats at the polls for his conservative party and his government's policies in the last few weeks.

The billionaire media mogul, who is starting his fourth year in office, also contended in a pitch to the Senate for continued support that there is no alternative to his partnership with coalition ally the Northern League, which opposes Italy's involvement in NATO's operations in Libya.

He defended the NATO mission in Libya, saying "up to now it has saved thousands of lives," although he said the government will make any decisions on its strategy on the mission after a high-level meeting of Italian defense officials in early July.

The government "will evaluate (any) reduction in its contingent always in accord with other international institutions," Berlusconi said, indicating any change would be coordinated with NATO and its partners.

The premier will make a similar pitch Wednesday in the lower Chamber of Deputies, where he won a confidence vote tied to a development funding law to close ranks among majority lawmakers and speed up passage.

Berlusconi's beauty secret revealed

Berlusconi dangled the specter of financial disaster, like that rocking Greece now, if he were to step down. Stepping down now with no other leader poised to replace him would be "folly," he said.

So far, Italy — despite its laggard economy and high public debt — has escaped financial debacle. But last week Moody's ratings agency warned that it might reduce the nation's credit rating. Earlier, Standard and Poor's cut its rating outlook for Italy's debt from stable to negative.

"The ratings agencies have us under observation, and the locusts of speculation are only waiting for the occasion to take the prey that shows signs of weakness," Berlusconi told the senators.

President Giorgio Napolitano had asked the government to lay out plans to parliament to see if it still commands enough support to govern effectively. Berlusconi's coalition has been weakened in the past year by the defection of an important ally, leaving the Northern League with its often fickle leader Umberto Bossi the lynchpin keeping the government going.

The premier defended his reliance on Bossi, telling the lawmakers the League is "the only political asset that will guarantee stability."

To placate the League, Berlusconi promised to propose reforms to streamline and lower taxes this summer.

The anti-immigrant League stepped up calls for Italy to end its participation in NATO's campaign in Libya because it fears more refugees will reach Italy.

Voters in referendums earlier this month rejected several key laws pushed by Berlusconi's government, including one reviving nuclear energy.

Berlusconi in his speech didn't directly mention the defeat on the nuclear policy. Instead he said the country could lower its energy bills and dependence by exploring alternative forms of energy.

In the confidence vote on a development bill in the Chamber, the government won 317-293 in the Chamber of Deputies.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Rich, powerful men behaving badly

  1. Closed captioning of: Rich, powerful men behaving badly

    >> has been indict nod less than 20 times, but never found guilty of so, how to explain his remarkable career of carousing and politics? contributing editor for "" vanity fair "" has written a story entitled la dolce viagra, in the magazine which features prince william and princess katherine on the cover. glad you are here. you said this 17-year-old in the article, ruby, was phoned 67 times in three months and paid for sexual services 13 times.

    >> well --

    >> that makes elliott spitzer seem like a clergyman, doesn't it?

    >> it is really shocking. this is what prosecutors are alleging, so they have both denied ever having sex with each other but this is, in fact, what prosecutors are alleging and what became clear in my reporting and really looking into this is that there was certainly a very vigorous attempt on berlusconi's part to hush her up, to give her -- cover her in money, he said it is just important you hide everything, hide everything.

    >> this was revealed in tape recordings that the government carried out?

    >> that's right. intercepted phone calls, yeah.

    >> now, he is not -- he has been indicted 20 times shall as i say. is he going to face the music this time, do you think?

    >> it's hard to tell. again, he is trying, however he can, to get this case -- so he is trying but i feel like this case is different. public opinion is -- does feel different(nnw it does feel like the tides are turning. his -- his popularity rating is down to about 30, so it does feel like this time it is really making an impact.

    >> now, in michelle's report, we saw him talking to someone who is almost a school girl about a bunga bunga party, that is almost a joke. but in your piece, you said bunga bunga parties, the girls would change their outfit, hit the stripper's pole and allow themselves to be fondled. these include striptease, light fetish and lesbian action, not to mention alleged hookups with pappy silvio involving the exchange of money and gifts that's prostitution, isn't it?

    >> that is prostitution in most people's opinion. i did speak with a few of the people involved. one of the women, nicole minetti, who is actually under indictment for procuring him prostitutes and has had a relationship with him and is a local politician of a very populist, wealthy region, her take on this is, oh, it's called generosity, he is just a very generous man. how do you define prostitutioning? if i sleep with my boyfriend and he gives me a car, am i a prostitute? so, they have -- they are very loose with the definitions there.

    >> astonishing. thanks so much for joining us.


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