Italian gov’t gets confidence vote from lower house, awaiting Senate vote

By Laura Serrano-Conde

Rome, Jan 18 (efe-epa).- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday obtained a vote of confidence from members of the lower house of Italy’s parliament after the crisis sparked by Matteo Renzi, whose minor Italy Alive party had abandoned the governing coalition, and the country is now awaiting the vote in the Senate on Tuesday, where a tighter contest is expected.

In all, 321 lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of Conte’s government, more than the 316 needed for an absolute majority and, thus, for the government to remain in power. The “pro” votes came mainly from the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party, along with the Free and Equal party and the Mixed Group.

There were 259 votes against the Conte government and 27 abstentions, most of the latter being members of the Italy Alive party. Those voting “no” included the the rightist parties: League, the Brothers of Italy and the Forza Italiana.

Among the “yes” votes was Forza Italiana lawmaker Reneta Polverini, who “in an act of responsibility,” as she told the media after the parliamentary session, broke from her party’s ranks to back Conte.

The premier had asked for the support of the Chamber of Deputies to continue leading the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday at 9:30 am, however, he will face a greater challenge than he faced in the lower house: the confidence vote in the Senate, where he could continue governing after receiving between 155 and 158 votes, this giving his coalition a plurality, although 161 votes are actually needed for an absolute majority.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has called for solid and stable majorities to support the Conte government.

Conte on Monday came to the Chamber of Deputies with a clear message: the country is going through a difficult time with the pandemic and thus the country “deserves a united government dedicated to working for the good of the citizens and for a sharp economic recovery.”

He called the crisis created by Renzi “senseless” and closed the door to a possible new alliance with the former premier, saying that “it’s time to turn the page.”

Conte, however, also called on lawmakers to support his government, which he said has “a European vocation,” and to put the brakes on “nationalist tendencies,” a clear allusion to the ultrarightist parties of Matteo Salvini’s League and the Brothers of Italy,

According to the latest voter surveys, the parties of the right would win a hypothetical general election, if held today, and Conte’s aim is to avoid that scenario.

The rightist group, meanwhile, on Monday reiterated in a joint statement its refusal to back Conte, criticizing the “absolute inability of the government to deal with” the health and economic crisis stemming from the pandemic.

“A government with a weak or nonexistent majority is not what Italy needs to face the difficult challenges of the coming months,” the group said in a statement.


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