New defections threaten Berlusconi's Forza Italia with weeks to go before regional elections

Silvio Berlusconi is battling to keep his Forza Italia party together after recent high-profile defections have left his camp scrambling to show a united front ahead of May regional elections.

The fissures are the latest blow to the three-time premier, who despite some recent legal victories has been unable to reboot Forza Italia and bring it out of fourth place in the polls, with about 12-13 percent of the vote.

First, longtime Berlusconi loyalist Sandro Bondi quit the party. Then Saturday, Berlusconi's candidate for Puglia's governor defected to a dissident faction headed by another onetime ally, Raffaele Fitto.

In a blistering blog post Saturday, Fitto said some 9 million Forza Italia voters were "fleeing" because "we are in a party without a serious and credible political line."