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Italy PM Conte survives close Senate vote to stay in power

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Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte narrowly won a crucial vote in the upper house Senate on Tuesday, to stay in power, days after former PM Matteo Renzi pulled his party out of the coalition.

Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte

The vote in the Senate – 156-140, with 16 abstentions – means, however, that Mr Conte does not have an absolute majority in the upper chamber.

Opposition parties say they plan to ask President Sergio Mattarella to intervene to force him to resign.

Mr Conte, a law professor, has led a centrist coalition since 2018.

The main parties in his coalition are the anti-establishment Five Star (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

The prime minister told the Senate it was vital to maintain political cohesion faced with the “historic challenge” of the pandemic.

Speaking in the Senate debate, Mr Renzi told Mr Conte to make bolder reforms, saying “Italy is wasting its biggest opportunity since the Marshall Plan” – a reference to the US aid for war-shattered Europe in 1948. He accused Mr Conte of being preoccupied with distributing government posts.

Even if Mr Conte had lost the vote, a snap election was not a certainty as President Mattarella still has the option of inviting him to assemble a new coalition.

On Monday he won a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies – the lower house – by 321 to 259, securing an absolute majority there.

Mr Renzi objects to Mr Conte’s plans for spending €209bn (£186bn; $254bn) of EU recovery funds – part of a €750bn EU rescue for the Covid crisis.

The former prime minister wants investment in the digital economy and green energy, and rejects Mr Conte’s plan to let technocrats, rather than MPs, decide spending priorities.

Addressing senators, Mr Conte said, “It’s very hard to govern in these conditions, with people who continuously place mines in our path and try to undermine the political balance patiently reached by the coalition”.

Italy has recorded 82,554 deaths linked to coronavirus – the second-highest official toll in Europe after the UK. It has more than 25,000 patients in hospital with Covid-19.

BBC

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