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Italy's premier Conte wins confidence vote by slim margin

Conte survives, for now, but not with the overall majority he sought.

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte has vowed to forge on after narrowly winning a confidence vote in the senate but failing to secure an absolute majority, leaving him with a weakened government.

The backing from the upper house of parliament, late on 19 January, came after Conte won a similar confidence motion the day before in the lower house.

He won in the senate by 156 votes to 140, with 16 abstentions, but fell short of the 161 votes he needed for an overall majority.

Obtaining the vote of confidence in both houses was crucial as had he lost either he would have been forced to resign.

Last week the government was plunged into a political crisis after Italia Viva, a junior coalition partner led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, pulled its support in a row over Conte's handling of the covid-19 crisis and the economic recession.

In his appeal to the senate ahead of last night's vote, Conte said "it is very difficult to govern in these conditions, with people who continuously place mines in our path and try to undermine the political balance reached patiently by the coalition.”

Conte's coalition, formed in 2019, is made up of the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) and the small leftist LEU party.

Conte relied on the support of two senators from the opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI), one from Italia Viva, and three life senators, including the 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre who defied her doctor's advice by travelling from Milan to back the premier.

Hailing the outcome last night, Conte tweeted: "Now the aim is to make this majority even more solid. Italy doesn't have a minute to lose."

However the result leaves Conte clinging to power with a weakened, minority government at a time when Italy is struggling to contain the covid-19 pandemic amid the worst economic turmoil since world war two.

In the days ahead the premier is expected to try and entice legislators, including conservative and socialist deputies as well as former M5S members and defectors from Renzi's camp, to shore up his precarious coalition.

Photo ANSA

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