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In Italy, Conte government’s future depends on crucial Senate vote

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After obtaining confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on Monday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, released by Matteo Renzi, will try to gain the confidence of senators on Tuesday. If his future as head of the executive does not seem threatened in the short term, his political room for maneuver may be reduced.

The Italian Senate is organizing a vote of confidence on Tuesday 19 January which is crucial for the future of the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, released by Matteo Renzi and his troops, and therefore forced to find a new majority in the midst of a pandemic.

After having obtained confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on Monday, where the two pillars of his coalition, the Democratic Party (PD, center-left) and the 5 Star Movement (M5S, anti-system), have the majority, Giuseppe Conte will attempt the doubled in the upper house, where it lacks on paper about fifteen votes to reach an absolute majority.

Giuseppe Conte, a law professor who himself has never rubbed shoulders with universal suffrage, has embarked on a frenzied vote-hunt among the ranks of the centrists and non-members to try to compensate for the departure of Matteo Renzi and its fifteen senators.

Severe recession

“In all probability, Conte will gain confidence in the Senate as well. It is not known with how many votes, probably without the absolute majority of 161 votes, but this is not essential for the survival of a government,” said Giovanni Orsina , political scientist at the Roman University Luiss. “This means that the Conte government will survive, but with a smaller majority, therefore with a more significant weakness in Parliament.”

The future of Giuseppe Conte at the head of the executive would therefore not be threatened in the short term, but his room for maneuver could be singularly reduced, while Italy faces its most serious economic recession since the post- war, consequence of the pandemic which killed more than 82,000 people on the peninsula. “The future of the country will depend on the choices that each one will make in these serious hours,” he warned Monday in front of the deputies.

The Prime Minister “will seek in the weeks to come to enlarge this majority, by using for example the ministerial posts made available” by the departure of the ministers of the party of Renzi, analyzes Giovanni Orsina. A prospect that is still very hypothetical at this stage, believes Wolfgango Piccoli, of the Teneo consulting firm. “Conte could end up in command of an extremely precarious majority which risks collapsing at the first vote which [la] would divide, ”he said.

Early elections?

In fact, if Matteo Renzi made the commitment that his troops would abstain, the support of Giuseppe Conte will have to be counted and the chief executive is not sure of being able to maintain himself if his majority turns out to be too narrow. In this case, three scenarios emerge: the PD and the M5S could come to terms with Renzi and form a reshuffled government, with or without Conte at its head. A grand coalition could also emerge, led by an institutional, non-partisan figure. Finally, in the event of an impasse, legislative elections would be called.

However, none of the members of the current coalition has an interest in early legislative elections, because it is the alliance between the right of Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia) and the extreme right – the League of Matteo Salvini and Fratelli of Italia by Georgia Meloni – who is given overwhelmingly favorite.

The current government crisis was provoked by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (2014-2016), who notably criticizes Conte for the content of the stimulus program of 222.9 billion euros drawn from the mega-plan of 750 billion d euros adopted in the summer of 2020 by European leaders and of which Italy is the main beneficiary.

He accuses him of aligning himself with the M5S and “squandering public money” by granting tax rebates and ad hoc aid for electoral reasons instead of taking advantage of this windfall to invest and reform structurally. Matteo Renzi also complains of not being listened to by Giuseppe Conte and calls for more weight in his government.

With AFP

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