Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a confidence vote in parliament by a hair on Friday, taking the exact number of votes required to win.
If he had lost, the embattled statesman would have been forced to leave his post.
The government asks for a confirmation of confidence because it is deeply aware of the risks facing the country and because the deadlines imposed by the markets are not compatible with those of certain political rituals, Berlusconi told Parliament's Chamber of Deputies before the vote.
Berlusconi said on Thursday that he wouldn't step down, and insisted that there's no credible alternative to his government and his leadership. The Prime Minister and businessman added that he is the only one who can bring Italy through its current financial crisis.
To those who ask this government to step down, I say there is no credible alternative and early elections would not be the solution to the problems that we have, Berlusconi added.
The confidence vote was called after Berlusconi and his People of Freedom party lost a budgetary vote by one ballot on Tuesday.
We should go to vote because we have to do something like Greece, Ireland and Spain who have had a fresh start only through a change in leadership, opposition party leader Pier Luigi Bersani said, according to ABC News.
Berlusconi has already stated that he won't run for office in the next election, but he hopes that his party wins again with the top spot in the Italian government. Even so, some Italian observers think that the elections could be held early in 2012.
There is no alternative to this government. Early elections would not solve the problems we have. A political crisis now would mean victory for the party of decline, catastrophe and speculation, Berlusconi said in a speech Thursday.
Berlusconi has lost suffered a number of political defeats in recent months, as Italians tire of both the country's economic troubles and their leader's many scandals and misdeeds.
In June, Italians voted against four referendums proposed by Berlusconi's government with an overwhelming 95 percent majority. The legislation included a referendum to privatize the national water supply, to reinvest in nuclear engery and to give government officials partial immunity from prosecution.
The magic flute is broken. After 20 years, Italians have stopped following Berlusconi's music, La Repubblica, a leftist daily paper wrote at the time.
Italians have turned their backs on him, it added.
A month later, the lower house of Parliament voted against granting immunity to People of Freedom Party deputy Alfonso Papa.
Papa is under investigation in Naples for a number of corruption charges. Thanks to Berlusconi, Papa had a temporary immunity from his alleged crimes, but the vote will allow the lawmaker to be arrested and tried.
Years of allegations of adultery, nepotism, Mafia connections and corruption have dogged the Prime Minister's political career, and although the government passed his party's austerity package last month, Italians are still reluctant to further support the once-popular leader.
Two weeks ago, three of Berlusconi's aides were indicted on prostitution charges.
Emilio Fede, Nicole Minetti and Lele Mora allegedly found and hired prostitutes for Berlusconi, including a Moroccan dancer named Karima El Mahroug -- stage name Ruby -- who was underage at the time.
In September, Italian police arrested businessman Giampaolo Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto for trying to blackmail Berlusconi with scandalous evidence of alleged misdeeds. The couple also allegedly hired prostitutes for the Prime Minister's infamous Bunga Bunga orgies, and used the information to extort money from the billionaire politician.
Berlusconi, who wasn't culpable in the blackmailing case, came to the defense of the couple for primarily selfish reasons, claiming that monetary payments were gifts and not used to keep anything secret.
I helped someone and a family with children who found themselves and continue to find themselves in very serious financial difficulty, Berlusconi told Italian magazine Panorama.
I didn't do anything illegal, I limited myself to helping a desperate man without asking for anything in exchange. That's how I'm made and nothing will change that.
The 74-year-old politician and billionaire media mogul is in the midst of his own prostitution case. Berlsuconi was first brought to court in April on prostitution charges after it was alleged that he paid for sex with Ruby, the underage Moroccan dancer, on multiple occasions. Both Berlusconi and 17-year-old El Mahroug deny that they had sexual intercourse, but after multiple delays the trial is finally set to begin in February.
Prostitution isn't illegal in Italy, but paying for sex with a minor is.
Italy's last prime minister, Romano Prodi of the left-leaning L'ulivo or Olive Tree coalition, also faced a confidence vote in 2008, which he lost in the Senate. Prodi resigned from his position, and Berlusconi won the next Prime Minister elections that April.