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Italy’s new premier wins pivotal confidence vote

Democrats are increasingly viewing Renzi's quick rise to power as a threat to their position.

Rome |
February 25, 2014 10:20:53 am
Newly appointed Italian Premier Matteo Renzi  during his first cabinet meeting at Chigi Palace in Rome February 22, 2014 Renzi was sworn into office on Saturday along with an unusually young Cabinet. (Reuters)

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi won a crucial confidence vote in Parliament on his brand new government early on Tuesday, managing at least for now to tamp down anger from among his own Democrats over his brash, quick rise to power.

The vote in the Senate came hours after he argued that he could get his country back to work, which his predecessors had failed to do. 39-year-old Renzi, Italy’s youngest premier, was sworn into office on Saturday along with an unusually young Cabinet, with many of the ministers newcomers to national government.

The Senate voted 169-139 to confirm Renzi’s broad coalition, which ranges from his centre-left Democrats to centre-right forces formerly loyal to ex-premier  Silvio Berlusconi. Renzi needed at least 155 votes to clinch the victory, one of two mandatory confidence votes. The second vote, in the Chamber of Deputies, was expected later Tuesday. Renzi’s coalition has a comfortable majority in the lower chamber. But he had a closer call in the Senate, where his coalition’s numbers  were tighter, especially after some of his own Democrats questioned on the eve of the vote if he deserved their backing.

There has been loud grumbling among his own Democrats over Renzi’s heavy-handed tactics to wrest the premiership from fellow Democrat Enrico Letta. His predecessor led a coalition with the same tense partners for 10 months, but Renzi engineered his ouster after industrialists and union leaders grew impatient with tentative efforts to energise the economy after years of  stagnation.

In the end, the potential defectors closed ranks, despite scepticism, after Renzi made a speech that was short on details on how he would quickly revive the economy. “I don’t believe that a government of this type can last four years,” said Felice Casson, a leading Democrat who said he voted for Renzi “despite indigestion” over the neophyte premier’s leadership.

Renzi insisted that debt-laden Italy must heal its public finances not because Germany’s Angela Merkel or the European Central Bank chief want that, but because “It’s our children” who seek a future. He promised new laws to slash payroll taxes to encourage hiring, but didn’t say how Italy would recoup the lower tax revenues.

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