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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Berlusconi wins key reform vote
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. File photo
Mr Berlusconi and the magistrates have clashed repeatedly
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has won a a key vote in parliament to speed up the passage of a controversial justice reform bill.

Mr Berlusconi pushed the bill through the lower house - the Chamber of Deputies - by resorting to a confidence vote precluding any further discussion.

The prime minister's centre-right coalition won the vote by 312 to 225.

Judges had gone on strike four times in protest at what they claim are the bill's unconstitutional provisions.

President Azeglio Ciampi temporarily vetoed the bill at one stage in its passage through parliament.

Vendetta claims

Mr Berlusconi admitted on Wednesday that he did not regard his justice reform bill as an ideal measure.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. File photo
Opponents urge Mr Ciampi to veto the bill once again

But he said it should reduce the long delays in both criminal and civil trials.

Judges and lawyers, however, say that as it now stands, the new law will do nothing to shorten the now legendary delays of Italian justice.

They also accuse Mr Berlusconi of trying to punish judges and prosecutors for alleged left-wing political bias.

Mr Berlusconi had several brushes with the law over allegations of business corruption before he went into politics.

Antonio di Pietro, a former leading prosecutor who was responsible for cleaning up political corruption in Italy a decade ago, said it was intolerable that Mr Berlusconi was trying to discredit the judiciary and spread doubts about their impartiality.

Italy hit by double strike
09 Feb 04 |  Europe
Berlusconi stuns Italian judges
05 Sep 03 |  Europe
Profile: Silvio Berlusconi
02 Jul 03 |  Europe

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