Italy’s Conte survives first vote on government’s future

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte won the backing of the lower house of parliament on Monday, in the first of two key votes he’ll face this week that will decide the future of the government.

Conte comfortably won an absolute majority in a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies. If he had lost he would have had to resign. The process will be repeated in the upper house, the Senate, on Tuesday.

The vote was triggered when former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s small Italia Viva party quit the governing coalition because of disagreements over the country’s post-coronavirus economic recovery plan.

Conte, who is not a member of a political party but leads a coalition of the anti-establishment 5Star Movement and the leftist Democratic Party, won the lower house vote by 321 to 259, after he appealed for help from Europhile, liberal MPs.  

In a passionate speech on Monday, he asked parliamentarians from “pro-European, liberal, socialist forces” to back him, saying their support would “enrich” the government.

Conte will face a tougher test on Tuesday in the Senate, where the government had a wafer-thin majority even with Italia Viva’s 18 senators.

Agnese Ortolani, an analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said the numbers were very uncertain, but that Conte could get the votes he needs to survive as long as Renzi’s senators abstain, as they have said they will. 

“But this would deliver an extremely fragile minority government which would be under pressure to secure external support to pass any pieces of legislation,” she said.

If Conte falls short of a majority he will have to resign. President Sergio Mattarella would likely give a mandate to another candidate to try and find a majority or, if all else fails, appoint a technocratic leader until elections can be held. 



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