Italy’s PM Conte wins crucial confidence vote ahead of tougher Senate test

Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte has won a crucial confidence vote in Parliament’s lower house on Monday, facing a tougher Senate test on Tuesday, news wires reported.

Conte lost his coalition majority last week with the defection of cabinet ministers belonging to former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s small Italia Viva party, a decision that followed weeks of criticism of the government’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Renzi has butted heads with Conte in a fight over the best way to use EU funds being sent to Italy to help it deal with the economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic. Renzi wants more investments in the health care system and for the government to seek access to more emergency funding.

Following an appeal to opposition and non-aligned lawmakers for “clear backing”, Conte’s government won on Monday the lower-house vote by 321 to 259, a wider-than-expected margin that gave it an absolute majority in the 629-seat chamber.

In the upper house Senate the government had only a slim majority even when Italia Viva was still part of the coalition.

Conte insists his coalition, formed in September 2019 and comprising mainly the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and populist Five Star Movement (M5S), could carry on without Renzi. But even if the government survives in terms of numbers in Parliament, Renzi’s party pullout last week highlighted the coalition’s fragility.

The centre-right opposition has called for snap elections, arguing that, even if the government survives the confidence votes, if will be too weak to effectively rule the country.

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