ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta must ask parliament to confirm its backing of his government after centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party withdrew its support two days ago, the country's president said on Thursday.
Since Letta won a confidence vote in the Senate over the 2014 budget without the backing of Forza Italia on Tuesday, the confirmation is likely to be a procedural formality done at the request of Berlusconi's party.
Forza Italia had been a member of the ruling right-left coalition since April, when it was put together to end a political stalemate that followed a deadlocked national election in February.
After meeting a Forza Italia delegation, President Giorgio Napolitano said "there will no doubt be a parliamentary passage to mark the shift from the grand coalition government to the one that won confidence over the budget," a spokesman in his office said.
The "form and timing" of the parliamentary "passage" will be discussed by the president and Letta on Monday afternoon, the spokesman added, leaving it unclear whether the prime minister will have to resign and seek another confidence vote.
At their meeting with Napolitano, the Forza Italia party officials pressed for Letta's resignation - a step which would lead to him receiving a new mandate to form a government and then having to win new confidence votes in parliament.
This would force Letta into tricky political talks as his centre-left Democratic Party prepares to pick a new leader, likely to be Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, and as the 2014 budget awaits final parliamentary approval.
Forza Italia abandoned Letta's coalition a day before Berlusconi's expulsion from the Senate over a tax fraud conviction. Forza Italia said it could not govern with Letta's Democratic Party because it planned to vote in favor of stripping Berlusconi of his seat.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Gareth Jones)