Berlusconi wins vote but his power base shrinks

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ROME (AP) -- Premier Silvio Berlusconi won a much-watched vote Tuesday, but the result laid bare his lack of support in Parliament as financial pressure from the eurozone debt crisis pummeled Italy.

The opposition immediately demanded that Berlusconi step down to calm the bond markets, but he has never listened to any calls to resign before his term ends in 2013.

The vote, on a routine measure to approve the 2010 state budget, won 308 votes of approval and no votes against in the Chamber of Deputies. But 321 deputies abstained from voting, most of them from the center-left opposition. If all 630 lawmakers had voted, Berlusconi would need a 316-seat majority to assure he was still in command.

Berlusconi scrutinized the vote tally handed him right after the vote, apparently trying to figure out who had abstained.

"This government does not have the majority!" thundered opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani, rising up in the chamber.

"We all know that Italy is running the real risk in the next days to not have access to financial markets," Bersani said.

He was referring to Italy's borrowing rates, which have been soaring amid weeks of political uncertainty over Berlusconi's ability to continue to lead the country and oversee the adoption of austerity measures to fight Italy's growing pile of debt.

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