Berlusconi abandons plan to bring down Italian PM Letta after highly charged debate

Italian center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, left, talks with senators after Prime Minister Enrico Letta asked for a confidence vote to be held immediately, in Rome on Oct. 2, 2013. Tony Gentile / Reuters
Prime Minister Enrico Letta arrives to deliver a speech at the Senate before he faced a confidence vote. Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images
Senators listen to Letta's address. Tony Gentile / Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta won a confidence vote in the Senate on Wednesday after center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, faced with an imminent party split, backtracked on his threat to bring down the government.

The Senate voted 235 to 70 in favor of the government, while about a dozen of Berlusconi's most hardline followers abandoned the chamber and did not vote at all after their leader's unexpected U-turn.

Berlusconi abruptly changed course as dozens of rebels in his center-right People of Freedom party prepared to vote for Letta. "We have decided, not without some internal strife, to support the government," the media tycoon told the senate at the end of a sometimes fiery debate. 

-- Reuters

Berlusconi listens as Letta delivers his speech. Gregorio Borgia / AP
Letta waves his fist after delivering his speech. Gregorio Borgia / AP
Berlusconi talks to senator Maria Rosaria Rossi during Letta's speech. Gregorio Borgia / AP
Letta looks on during the confidence vote. Tony Gentile / Reuters
Berlusconi speaks before the confidence vote, abandoning his plan to bring down Italy's grand coalition government following growing dissent within his conservative party. "We have decided, not without internal torment, to express a vote of confidence in this government," Berlusconi said. Alessandro Di Meo / EPA
Silvio Berlusconi retreats, Italy's coalition government survives 4:13