Italian PM Giuseppe Conte faces next confidence vote in Senate

Italian PM Conte seeks to stay in power with Senate vote

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte was fighting for his political life Monday with an address to the lower chamber of Parliament that aims to shore up support for his government, which has come under fire from an ally over plans to relaunch the country's pandemic-ravaged economy. Had he lost either vote, he would have had to resign.

After his appeal to opposition and non-aligned lawmakers to back him following last week's walkout by former Premier Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva party, Conte's government won the lower-house vote by 321 to 259, an absolute majority in the 629-seat chamber.

An initial, informal tally had put the count at 153 to 140, but the numbers were modified after a lengthy discussion in the chamber over whether a handful of late ballots were valid.

Conte faces a key test in the upper house of parliament after the defection of a minor coalition party headed by ex-premier Matteo Renzi left him scrambling for fresh support.

Mattarella has pressured Conte to engineer a quick resolution to the problem - one way or another - and has stressed the need for a stable majority if he is to remain in power, officials said.

Italy's borrowing costs rose on Monday as financial markets fretted over the political crisis, but a large-scale sell-off has been averted by the European Central Bank's large-scale purchases of Italian assets.

Some 73 percent of those polled said Renzi was acting out of self-interest, rather than that of the country, and asked to take sides, 55 percent preferred Conte - with just 10 percent backing Renzi.

The prime minister is hoping to secure enough votes from opposition and independent lawmakers in the Senate vote on Tuesday, which is expected to be a bigger challenge than the Monday's lower house vote.

Conte is facing an unprecedented challenge to revive the economy, with parts of the country now under partial COVID-19 lockdown. That is a bold stance, considering the Democrats, a main coalition partner, ruled out making any coalition deal with defector Renzi.

Among them was Liliana Segre, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and senator-for-life who traveled from Milan to vote, Segre was made a senator-for-life by Italy's president to honor her work in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive by speaking to students in schools throughout the nation. But Mattarella is considered unlikely at this point to choose that option, given the difficulty of organizing a campaign and vote during a pandemic.

Renzi had insisted Italy should access loans from the EU's European Stability Mechanism to bolster the health system during the pandemic.

It means Conte's government has survived a political crisis triggered after former prime minister Matteo Renzi, now a senator who leads the Italia Viva party, pulled out of the ruling majority last week. The process will be repeated in the upper house, the Senate, on Tuesday.

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