(ROME) -- Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has survived the battle to remain the leader of Italy's governing coalition, winning Friday's confidence vote 316 to 301.
Thursday, in a 19-minute address to parliament ahead of Friday's vote, Berlusconi said he would not step down. He insisted his governing majority was strong and there was "no credible alternative" to his leadership for a country going through such hard economic times.
Addressing a hall which was half empty as opposition parliamentarians vacated their seats in protest during his speech, he said that the government was calling for the confidence vote because "it is profoundly aware of the risks the country is facing and that the deadlines dictated by the markets are not compatible with political procedures."
This was not the time for early elections, he said, but if the government lost the vote, early elections would be the only alternative.
Friday's confidence vote was called after the government lost a key budget vote on Tuesday, partly because some of Berlusconi's parliamentarians were "distracted" and not present. The defeat Tuesday prompted fresh calls from the center-left opposition for Berlusconi to resign in favor of a national unity government.
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