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Italy's Berlusconi to face confidence vote

From Hada Messia, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Italian prime minister will ask parliament to support his plans for the rest of his term
  • It's the first major test of his strength since 40 lawmakers left his party this summer
  • He's expected to win the votes

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will ask parliament for a vote of confidence in his leadership on Wednesday, the government said Tuesday.

He's set to outline his goals for the rest of his term, which expires in 2013, then ask the lower house of parliament to back him. If he wins, he'll take his program to the Senate on Thursday.

The vote should show whether he has a strong enough majority to finish his term.

Berlusconi is expected to win the votes, but they will be the first major test of his strength since a dispute with his longtime political ally Gianfranco Fini.

Berlusconi expelled Fini from his party earlier this year, and about 40 lawmakers followed Fini out of the governing party.

But Fini, the speaker of the lower house, has said he intends to back the prime minister's plans, which should give Berlusconi a majority in the confidence votes.

Berlusconi is expected to outline his economic plans on Wednesday,

Italian unemployment is running at 8.5 percent, the highest level since 2003, according to the Italian statistical office, and public debt is 120 percent of the country's gross domestic product, the Bank of Italy says.