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“We didn’t vote ‘no’ on the confidence votes,” Alfano said Friday, explaining the party’s abstention. He had earlier described the abstentions as a “clear signal” that Berlusconi’s center-right forces “don’t like the way the economy is going.”

What he didn’t acknowledge was that for the first time Berlusconi suffered several defections from faithful allies, such as former Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. 

Alfano met Friday with President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday to lay out his party’s concerns.

The Monti government has several major legislative targets before his term ends, including passage of the budget, a law requiring a balanced budget and the abolition of a number of provinces to cut costs.

Monti’s own political future is uncertain. He has sent our signals he would be available for another stint in the event no coalition succeeds in putting together a majority. He has also been mentioned as a possible successor to Napolitano, although the position of president is largely ceremonial.