ROME — One day after anti-corruption police pounded on the doors of Parliament, the government of Socialist Prime Minister Giuliano Amato survived a protest vote of no confidence Friday in beleaguered uncertainty.
The 321-255 vote confirmed Amato's mandate without steadying a government whipsawed by spreading corruption scandals and national economic distress.
Confronted for all of his seven months in office by vociferous popular discontent with a discredited political system, Amato is also under attack from labor and the left for the austerity he has enacted to combat an alarming government deficit.
At a time of quickening recession, economic concerns were paramount when Amato took office nearly three months after last spring's national elections. Now, though, it is political unrest that jostles most, even though the economy has slumped further, and Italy has been forced to devalue the lira and leave the European Monetary System.
A year-old investigation into kickbacks paid to political parties for public contracts has already sent more than 100 prominent businessmen and politicians to jail. The inquiry began in Milan, but investigating magistrates are now heavily engaged in virtually every major city, and they appear to have barely scratched the surface.
Among the most prominent victims of the scandal thus far is Socialist Party leader and former Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, who has been formally notified four different times that he is under investigation in cases of corruption and illegal party financing.
Craxi's party has traditionally been strongest in economic powerhouse Milan, where the scandal has hit hardest so far. A leader in Milan of the free-market Republican Party attempted suicide this week after being linked to a corruption probe.
Also this week, police seized files at Socialist Party headquarters here, and raided a Foreign Ministry agency that administered Italian aid to the Third World. Former Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis, also a Socialist, is under investigation on corruption charges too.
On Thursday, overzealous police tried to enter Parliament in search of Socialist financial records. They were rebuffed.
Craxi bitterly charges that the judicial accusations against him are unfounded, a political vendetta. Nevertheless, he seems certain to lose his chairmanship in the face of a revolt within the party.
Without openly joining that rebellion, Amato, 54, has distanced himself from his fellow Socialists, in effect becoming more a man of government than of party, a rarity in postwar Italy.
"Corruption in Italy has reached an unacceptable dimension. . . . A system which has produced such widespread degeneration must closely examine its conscience," Amato told Parliament during the debate before the confidence vote.
When the vote came Friday, Socialist deputies joined dominant Christian Democrats and two other small coalition partners in defeating a no-confidence motion brought by the former Italian Communist Party and supported across the board by the government's parliamentary opposition, from Marxist left to neo-fascist right.
The vote gives the Amato coalition some breathing room, but not much. A by-now-universal outcry in Italy for political reform has crystallized into 10 referendums that would overhaul the electoral system and streamline an overburdened and underachieving government.