Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has won back-to-back votes of confidence in his country’s parliament – but he was left with a wafer-thin majority that will make it hard for him to govern effectively.
In the second and most dramatic of the votes, he survived a no-confidence motion in the lower house by just three votes.
The tense session was briefly interrupted as MPs pushed and shoved each other, while outside parliament protesters hurling fireworks, eggs and paint scuffled with police.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Berlusconi had secured a more comfortable victory in a confidence vote at the Senate.
The votes were called following a spate of sex scandals and a break-up with one-time close ally Gianfranco Fini, who had urged Mr Berlusconi to resign and had hoped to bring him down through the no-confidence motion.
The outcome marked a victory for Mr Berlusconi over the man who had become his most bitter rival. By contrast, it dealt a blow to Mr Fini’s ambitions to replace him as conservative leader, at least in the short term.
Ironically, it was Mr Fini in his capacity as speaker of the lower house who announced the result: 314-311 in favour of the government. Applause broke out and Mr Fini quickly ended the session without comment.
However, the political future remains uncertain as Mr Berlusconi can no longer count on a solid majority in parliament. His victory was obtained thanks to the votes of a handful of swing MPs who changed their minds at the last minute.
Pierluigi Bersani, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said during the debate right before the vote that even if Mr Berlusconi won, it would only be a “Pyrrhic victory”.
The 74-year-old has been weakened by the break-up with Mr Fini, allegations he partied with prostitutes and long-standing criticism that he has used his three terms as premier to pass laws to help shield him from his legal troubles.