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Protests erupt as Italian PM Berlusconi wins vote

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By Associated Press

ROME (AP) — Premier Silvio Berlusconi won back-to-back confidence votes Tuesday in the Italian parliament, narrowly surviving one of the toughest fights of his political life. But violent protests greeted his victory, as rioters torched cars, smashed windows and clashed with police.

Riot police fired tear gas to try to disperse the crowds in Rome after earlier trying to cordon off the area around parliament. Clouds of white tear gas and orange flares engulfed some streets, shops full of Christmas goods hurriedly closed down and employees at one bank cowered in fear as waves of stone-throwing youths swept by.

Tensions inside parliament's lower house had boiled over earlier in the day, as lawmakers pushed and shoved each other, forcing a brief suspension in the voting.

Ultimately, Berlusconi survived the lower house's no-confidence motion by just three votes after a more comfortable victory in the Senate earlier in the day.

The outcome of the highly uncertain votes attested to Berlusconi's uncanny ability to survive, even when nearly all indications pointed to a government collapse. Yet it also indicated he will have a difficult time governing given the narrow margin.


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