Italian PM Giuseppe Conte survives confidence vote in Senate

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte survives confidence vote in Senate
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has survived an upper house confidence vote, keeping his fragile administration afloat. The minority government will likely struggle to enforce legislation.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his victory in a Senate vote of confidence on Tuesday after he secured enough votes from opposition and independent lawyers.

Conte needed the approval of both chambers to survive the vote. He does not, however, need an absolute majority to remain in office.

But leading a minority government could make it difficult for Conte to pass crucial legislation. It also leaves him vulnerable to future parliamentary ambushes, especially as Italy fights to contain one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

Over the coming weeks, Conte and his supporters will likely try persuade a few defect Christian Democrat, conservative and socialist lawmakers, as well as former M5S members and defectors from former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s side, to join them.

Political turmoil

The Senate cast their ballots a day after Conte survived a confidence vote in the country’s lower house on Monday, where he and his government won the vote by 321 to 259 — a margin that was wider than expected.

Conte had appealed to pro-European lawmakers to support his fragile government or risk handing power to the nationalist right. His coalition has been on the brink since Renzi withdrew the support of his Italia Viva (Italy Alive) party last week, depriving Conte of his majority in the Senate.

Renzi, who quit the government citing disagreement over Conte’s handling of the twin coronavirus and economic crises, had said his party would "probably" abstain in Tuesday’s vote — as it did on Monday.

His party’s vote against Conte would have made the chances of Conte’s survival even more difficult.

Leading left and right

Conte was tapped by Italy’s 5-Star Movement to lead the government after the 2018 general election resulted in a coalition of the 5-Star Movement (M5S) and Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party.

In August 2019, the League submitted a motion of no confidence against Conte’s coalition government. Conte had offered to step down as prime minister but the M5S and the PD agreed to form a new government with Conte staying on as leader.

Conte faces an unprecedented challenge to revive a ravaged economy, with parts of Italy currently under partial COVID-19 lockdown. He also needs to push a €220 billion ($196 billion) European Union recovery package through parliament.

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