By Giada Zampano
ROME (AA) - Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte survived a key vote of confidence in the Senate Tuesday with a thin majority, a further blow to his weakened leadership that leaves his government hanging in the balance.
After addressing lawmakers for two days in a row in a desperate bid to rebuild his split coalition, the Italian premier won the confidence test in the upper house with 156 votes in favor and 140 against his government, falling short of an absolute majority at 161.
The numbers were hailed as a victory by Conte and his ruling partners – the center-left Democratic Party and the populist Five Star Movement. They were forced to search for new allies in parliament after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pulled his centrist Italia Viva party from the governing coalition in protest against Conte’s policies and “centralizing” methods.
However, as analysts noted, Conte emerged from the parliamentary battle as a lame duck, commanding only a minority government that risks splitting on any decisive vote just as Italy struggles to exit a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst recession since World War II.
Addressing lawmakers in parliament, Conte defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis and appealed to the support of other “willing” lawmakers with solid pro-European roots to help him continue governing as Italy faces dramatic challenges.
Just a few independents and two center-right lawmakers responded to the call, leaving the government exposed to the attacks of the right-wing opposition, which said it plans to ask President Sergio Mattarella to intervene and force Conte to resign.
But the premier seemed determined to forge ahead and try to keep his government alive, possibly with a government reshuffle.
“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,” wrote Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of consultancy firm Teneo.
In the days and weeks ahead, Conte and his allies are expected to work to enlarge their majority by trying to persuade senators from Renzi’s party -- who abstained on Tuesday to keep a door open to future alliances -- and other lawmakers to strengthen the ruling coalition.
“In short, this vote will not bring the crisis to an outright end,” Piccoli noted.