Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte today faces a tight vote of confidence in the nation’s Senate. If he loses, it will trigger a full-fledged political crisis.
Mr Conte was forced to test support for his ruling coalition before Italian lawmakers after the former prime minister Matteo renzi last week his small party withdrew its support for the government.
The exit of Mr Renzi’s Italia Viva party from the coalition has cast doubt on Mr Conte’s future at a time when Italy has suffered more than 82,000 deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic, the second highest Europe, and a brutal economic recession.
On Tuesday, Mr. Conte defended his government’s record in dealing with the pandemic after strong criticism from Mr. Renzi, and argued that the resignation of his political rival had caused unnecessary uncertainty in this time of great crisis.
“We are facing a challenge of historic proportions,” Conte told senators ahead of the vote, which is expected to take place in the evening. “The entire political class risks losing touch with reality. Was it really necessary to open a political crisis at this point?
Mr Conte easily won a vote on Monday in Italy’s lower house, where the remaining parties in his coalition have a majority, but faces a much more difficult test in today’s Senate vote.
If Mr. Conte is unable to win in the upper house, he will be forced to resign to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who will then ask parliamentarians to try to form a new coalition.
New elections, which are not due until 2023 at the latest, are unlikely in part due to the difficulty of holding them during the pandemic.
Mr Renzi’s Italia Viva, which only has the support of around 3% of voters according to national opinion polls, abstains in the vote of confidence in the Senate, which means that the number of senators whose Mr. Conte needs to win is less than the absolute majority. .
However, if the prime minister won the vote without securing an absolute majority in the upper house, the surviving government would be seriously weakened and unable to pass a budget. To do this, you need an absolute majority in the chamber.
Over the weekend, Italian media reported that Mr Conte and his supporters contacted numerous senators outside the ruling coalition in an attempt to gain their support, including some from the right-wing opposition party of Silvio Berlusconi. , Forza Italia.
The leaders of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party, the two largest parties in the current coalition, have firmly supported Mr. Conte to remain prime minister.
However, other opposition politicians attacked him for engaging in what they see as political bargaining in his hasty attempt to ensure his survival.
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing Brotherhood of Italy party, said Conte should be “ashamed” of “the bargaining that took place in this chamber” after the vote of confidence in the lower house on Monday.