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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy Vote Puts Prodi In Doubt

ROME -- A dispute with far left allies over sending troops to Albania has starkly exposed a fault line in Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's center-left government which could eventually tear it apart.

Prodi has put his government's survival on the line over the next three days, calling confidence votes in the upper and lower houses of parliament after hard left ally Communist Refoundation opposed a plan to send an Italian-led multinational force to guard aid missions in Albania.

The mission was secured when center-right opposition parties swung behind the government in parliament. In return they forced Prodi into a humiliating admission that his parliamentary majority had crumbled on a key foreign policy issue.

"The crisis over Albania has shown that there is not a real government majority," said Sergio Romano, a former diplomat who is now a leading political commentator.

Prodi told the Senate, where his coalition government has an outright majority, that Communist Refoundation must be prepared to back his government's program if it voted for him in a confidence vote scheduled for Thursday.

The Chamber of Deputies -- the Italian parliament's lower house, where the government has to rely on the support of Refoundation's 34 deputies -- will hold a similar vote on Saturday.

Refoundation pledged Thursday to support Prodi, allowing him to live to fight another day. But his hastily patched up majority will be put to a severe test in the months ahead when the government unveils plans to prune a bloated welfare state.

Welfare reform is high on the agenda of a government that has to straighten out public finances in order to win a place in a planned European currency union.