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Berlusconi passes a budget vote, but loses majority

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi addresses a press conference at the end of a summit of the EU heads of State.

Steve Chiotakis: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still in control in Italy -- he won a big budget vote today. But at the same time, he lost his majority support there. And now, there are growing calls for the Italian leader to step aside to make way for another government to carry out economic reforms.

Marketplace's David Gura is watching this story. He's keeping us up to date now, and he's live with the latest. Hey David.

David Gura: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: What does this vote really mean for Italy?

Gura: Steve, as you said, this was a vote on the 2010 state budget -- so not a vote on Berlusconi himself, or on his ability to lead. There were 308 votes to approve that budget; there were no votes against it.

And here's what's really important: 321 lawmakers didn't vote. So, if you do the math,
Berlusconi no longer has an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament. That really calls into question his ability to push anything else through parliament, at a time when he really needs to be able to do that.

Berlusconi keeps saying that right now, the coalition government can't afford to fall apart -- for the sake of Italy, for the sake of the eurozone. He says the focus has to be on implementing new austerity measures to get on top of their debt.

Meanwhile -- as you said -- the chorus of calls for his resignation gets louder and louder, Steve. And his term isn't scheduled to expire until 2013.

Chiotakis: Well, this sounds really familiar, David. How is the world reacting? to this?

Gura: Well, borrowing rates, interest rates are up. They're at their highest since the creation of the eurozone more than a decade ago. And that's because of all this political uncertainty, Steve.

Italy is the third-largest economy in the eurozone. It's also the country with the second-biggest debt in the eurozone -- a public debt that's now at about $2.7 trillion.
That puts it just behind Greece.

So again, this is all about confidence -- confidence in Berlusconi's ability to shepherd or maybe push Italy through this crisis, Steve, to implement what are some pretty tough new economic policies.

Chiotakis: Marketplace's David Gura. David, thank you.

Gura: Thank you, Steve.

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