Prime minister Romano Prodi faces a vote of confidence on 24 January to determine whether his government will remain in power after ex-minister of justice Clemente Mastella withdrew his Unione Democratici per l'Europa (Udeur) from the ruling centre-left coalition. Without the support of three senators who represent the small Catholic Udeur party, Prodi loses his single seat majority in the senate.
Prodi won the vote in the chamber of deputies on 23 January 326 votes to 275, but is less likely to win a senate vote.
If Prodi loses the vote, president of the republic Giorgio Napolitano may dissolve parliament and call early general elections. Alternatively, an interim government of technocrats may be created to carry out electoral reforms before elections are held.
On previous occasions, Napolitano is known to be unwilling to go to the polls under the current electoral system, which can result