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ITALY: Conte likely to battle on

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Abstentions (including from Italia Viva’s senators) in today’s crucial vote in the Senate will likely mean that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will secure enough support (157-158 votes) to stay in power. However, the government will fall short of an absolute majority (161 votes). This means that Conte will lead a minority government – an extremely precarious governing arrangement that would risk collapse at any divisive vote in the coming months. The result of the Senate confidence vote is expected at around 8.30-9pm local time.

In the days and weeks ahead Conte and his allies will work to enlarge their majority by trying to persuade senators from Italia Viva, the mixed group, and independents to join the ruling coalition. In short, today’s vote will not bring the crisis to an outright end.

Most crucially, it remains unclear how such a weak and unwieldy coalition (that is essentially kept together by the fear of early elections) without a majority can lead Italy out of the deepest economic crisis since World War II amid a pandemic.

Policymaking is set to become even more complicated as the government will often find itself at the mercy of the opposition’s benevolence. Not to mention that without Italia Viva’s support, the ruling coalition will not have a majority in most Senate commissions (possibly in up to 10 out of 14), another major hurdle in terms of lawmaking.

Desperate to win over as many lawmakers as possible, the prime minister made plenty of promises and various concessions in his addresses to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. He vowed to work with parliament to write a new proportional electoral law (negative for political stability). Conte also promised to surrender his direct supervision of the intelligence agencies – a controversial issue raised by both Matteo Renzi and the Democratic Party. Conte pledged to relinquish the Ministry of Agriculture quickly, which he temporarily took over after Italia Viva’s exit from the government. Continuing in the same vein, the prime minister promised to strengthen his cabinet, hinting at a possible cabinet reshuffle.

Moreover, he stated his determination to speed up the economic recovery plan and work more closely with parliament in relation to the control of the funds made available by the EU. He concluded by reiterating Italy’s inescapable pro-European stand – quite a U-turn for a leader who just two years ago as head of the Lega-Five Star Movement government was singing the praises of sovereignty and populism.

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ITALY: Conte likely to battle on

Abstentions (including from Italia Viva’s senators) in today’s crucial vote in the Senate will likely mean that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will secure enough