Italian new gov’t wins confidence vote in Senate

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (4th L) poses with several new cabinet members at the swearing-in ceremony in Rome, Italy, on April 28, 2013. Italy’s new cabinet, lead by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, was sworn in on Sunday, starting their task for breaking the impasse the country had been locked for months. (Xinhua/Xu Nizhi)

ROME, April 30 (Xinhua) — Italy’s new government on Tuesday won the second of the two confidence votes from the parliament, after Prime Minister Enrico Letta pledged to adopt urgent growth policies to make up for more than one year of austerity drive.

The left-right coalition, which took office on Sunday breaking a two-month standstill, won support of Senate, the upper house, by a vote of 233 to 59 one day after the lower house also gave its approval with a large majority.

The center-left Democratic Party (PD), of which Letta is the acting leader, the center-right and PD main opponent People of Freedom (PdL) of three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi and the centrist Civil Choice of former premier Mario Monti supported the newly sworn-in government.

The anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) of comedian Beppe Grillo, which has the balance of power in the Senate, voted against along with leftwing Left, Ecology and Freedom (SEL) and rightwing Brothers of Italy, while PdL’s main ally Northern League abstained.

Letta, 46, a moderate former minister and former member of the European Parliament, will face the tough challenge to keep together mutually incompatible forces to restart a declining economy which counts nearly three millions of unemployed.

Already on Tuesday, Berlusconi warned that his party would take out help to the new government if Italians will have to pay an unpopular property tax that he had promised to abolish in his electoral campaign.

Letta acknowledged that expectations on his work are “frankly excessive” and the “extremely serious emergency” will not disappear because the parliament has given him a confidence vote.

In his view, “Italy is dying from austerity alone” and needs to boost investments and create jobs while easing budget restrictions.

Among the economic and institutional reforms at the center of his very ambitious agenda, there are reducing record-high taxes without increasing debt, reforming the welfare system and fighting corruption and tax evasion.

Letta’s government also aimed to restore public faith in scandal-hit politics by revising the party-funding system which has been widely abused, cutting the number of MPs, presently 945, and changing a criticized electoral law responsible for the current hung parliament.

Strengthening European dialogue and synergy to tackle common crisis play a fundamental role in the Italian prime minister’s program.

This week Letta will travel to Berlin and other major European capitals to reassure about his country’s economic commitment, but he said that he would resign if he does not see sufficient achievements in the next 18 months.

 

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