Silvio Berlusconi
After surviving more than 50 votes of confidence, the embattled Italian Prime Minister lost his majority in Parliament during a routine ballot on Italian public accounts. He was forced to submit his resignation request to the president soon after, after three terms in office.

The Italian premier told the lower house of parliament there was "no alternative" to his coalition government on Thursday, following a defeat on a routine but crucial bill on Tuesday when several of his deputies failed to attend.

The self-styled "Cavaliere" has staked the survival of his government on a parliamentary vote of confidence that could take place at the end of the week.

His speech on Thursday came as anti-capitalist protesters camped out in front of the Bank of Italy in the wake of a 2,000-strong rally on Wednesday. The demonstrators, who are organising a larger rally on Saturday, have reportedly been inspired by the "Indignados" movement in Spain and the Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S.

Berlusconi's popularity is at an all-time low as the Prime Minister faces three trials for bribery, tax fraud, abuse of power and allegedly paying for sex with underage prostitute Ruby Rubacori.

Various commentators saw Berlusconi's defeat in Tuesday's vote as a landmark in the decline of his political career.

There have been suggestions that the likelihood of a general election being held before the end of the current government's mandate in 2013 is higher than ever.

Others say it is too early to dismiss the beleaguered Prime Minister.

"What is the probability that Berlusconi will fall tomorrow with a clear-cut vote? Very low. In practice, zero," said Stefano Folli, a columnist for business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

The premier himself remains defiant he will hold on to power in Italy, saying his government is "the only political body democratically qualified to defend national interests from the tensions caused by the financial crisis".