Italian PM Conte wins vote in Senate with very thin margin

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte survived a crucial Senate confidence vote on Tuesday night, but his coalition government was left weakened after it failed to secure an overall majority, news wires reported. The premier won by 156 votes to 140 in the Senate, the upper chamber, but fell short of the absolute majority of 161.

There were 16 abstentions, thanks to a small but key coalition ally that bolted the center-left coalition last week, jeopardizing Conte’s survival at the nation’s helm. Two of the yes votes came from the center-right opposition party led by ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

An absolute majority in the Senate is 161, so to pass critical legislation, including aid to help Italy’s battered economy, Conte faces the unpleasant prospect of having to rely on lawmakers outside his coalition.

Conte tweeted that “now the aim is to make this majority more solid. Italy doesn’t have a minute to lose. Right to work to overcome the health emergency and the economic crisis.”

Had he lost, Conte would have been required to resign. He could till opt to hand in his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in a bid to be tapped anew to try to cobble together a revamped, more solid coalition. Conte’s tweet indicated, however, that he wanted to try to forge on, no matter how hobbled his coalition was left by the defection of lawmakers loyal to former Premier Matteo Renzi.

With the vote barely counted, right-wing opposition members started demanding Conte and his oft-bickering, shrunken coalition quit.

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