Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi survived a confidence vote in Parliament on Friday, but his narrow majority raises doubts over his ability to govern effectively when the country needs a steady hand during its economic crisis.

Mr. Berlusconi’s conservatives won in a 316-301 vote in Parliament’s lower house. After days of tension, the premier’s allies clapped when the result of the vote was announced.

Mr. Berlusconi has been weakened by sex scandals and criticized for his handling of Italy’s economy. He has been facing repeated calls for his resignation from his political rivals, labour unions and parts of the business community that once considered him their saviour.

Even some of his own allies have openly expressed disappointment, with at least two deserting the crucial vote on Friday.

Had he lost the vote of confidence, Mr. Berlusconi would have been forced to resign about 1 1/2 years before the end of his term, in 2013.

Three ratings agencies have downgraded Italy’s public debt, citing the country’s political gridlock and low growth prospects as key reasons. The vote on Friday appeared to do little to reassure markets.


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