Italy’s government also passed the decisive vote in the second chamber of parliament on Tuesday evening and thus survived the government crisis. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte can continue to rule.
Right up to the end, Conte and his loyal supporters tried to win the decisive vote there through defectors from other parties. That succeeded, shortly after ten thirty in the evening it was clear: Conte not only received the necessary 152 yes-votes, but even 156.
After the small party “Italia Viva” (“Living Italy”) of the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi left the coalition under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last week, the head of government had to face confidence votes in both chambers of parliament on Monday and Tuesday.
The House of Representatives had already confirmed Conte on Monday evening with an absolute majority: 321 MPs voted in a roll-call vote to remain in office, 259 against. Among the votes in favor were three from “Italia Viva”, a split from the center-left “Partito democratico” PD, partner of the five-star movement in Conte’s coalition. It was formed in 2019, shortly after Renzi, then PD party leader, joined the coalition with his party at the time.
A simple majority was then sufficient in the Senate, but the numbers from Conte’s alliance were tighter there. The absolute majority, as in the chamber on Monday, seemed impossible, but was also not mandatory for the vote of confidence. How high the relative majority is depends, among other things, on the number of abstentions – all of the Senators from Italia Viva abstained, as announced. The session marathon had lasted about twelve hours.
Before the vote, at least 152 necessary yes-votes were expected. An unofficial count in the afternoon showed “yes” 154 times, including the four life senators, Elena Cattaneo and Marco Rubbia, both scientists, the former non-party Prime Minister Mario Monti and the Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre. The 90-year-old, who fell victim to the anti-Jewish racial laws as a teenager and had been deported to Auschwitz, traveled from Milan especially to vote. She was greeted with long applause in the plenary hall, and all members of the government rose from their seats.
Conte sharply criticizes Renzi
In front of the Senate, Conte essentially repeated his speech from the previous day in the House of Representatives. He criticized Renzi even more harshly – but again he did not name him: it was difficult, according to the prime minister, “to work with someone who lays mines on the common path”. It was true that on Monday and Tuesday there were still signals from Renzi’s party that they were basically ready to continue to support the government – even Renzi’s closest confidante, the parliamentary group leader in the House of Representatives Maria Elena Boschi, promised to “keep channels of dialogue open”.
But both the five stars, who brought the non-party Conte into office, and the PD had refused. Renzi is “not trustworthy and unreliable”.
Although his party – it is currently between two to three percent in surveys – justified the departure from the coalition with differences over the use of European pandemic aid, the competition between Renzi and his successor Conte is generally suspected as the reason for the break.
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Renzi had withdrawn from the post of prime minister after his own defeat via a constitutional referendum, but as head of the PD had long prevented his party from entering into a coalition with the five-star movement, which slid to win the parliamentary elections in 2018 and Renzi’s PD on top of it worst election result ever achieved. Even though PD voters had chosen the stars en masse – they have since been greatly reduced in polls – Renzi refused coalition offers. Ultimately, the only thing left to the first Conte government was to join forces with Matteo Salvini’s right-wing extremist Lega.
Renzi: “You have the third majority in three years, you ruled with Matteo Salvini”
The coalition collapsed in 2019, and Renzi himself paved the way for the PD to join the government – in order to split off from the PD at the same time. On Tuesday, Renzi, who is himself a member of the Senate, accused his unloved successor of these changing coalitions: “You have the third majority in three years, you have ruled with Matteo Salvini.” On the charge that he had triggered a crisis for no reason , he replied: “We are not irresponsible, on the contrary, we have been too patient.” For months there had been calls for a turnaround in the handling of the EU billions. He called Contes’ search for new support “an unworthy office market”.
According to media reports, Conte had ruled out a resignation several times internally if the Senate was very close. He could try to find the missing majority for future government projects on a case-by-case basis – which, however, would sooner or later lead to his resignation. In the evening, however, the sentence was rumored that if the Senate only narrowly expressed confidence in him, he would resign.