Official: Berlusconi party to abstain in confidence vote

ROME - The center-right party of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will abstain in a confidence vote in the lower house of parliament on Thursday, a party official said, heightening the risk of a government crisis.
The head of Italy's center-left Democratic Party said earlier that President Giorgio Napolitano would have to decide whether to call an election if the center-right withheld its support from the government.
"As a parliamentary group we have decided to abstain this afternoon in the vote of confidence called by the government to show our strongly critical view of their economic policies," Fabrizio Cicchitto, the lower house leader of Berlusconi's People of Liberty (PDL) party, said in a statement.
Earlier on Thursday the PDL walked out of a confidence vote in the Senate after Industry Minister Corrado Passera expressed strong reservations about a return of Berlusconi, who left office in a cloud of scandal at the height of the euro-zone crisis last year.
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