Italy’s Conte Determined to Hold On to Power After Senate Vote

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte aims to maintain his grip on power in Italy even if he falls short of an outright majority in a crucial Senate vote on Tuesday, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Conte faces a key test in the upper house of parliament after the defection of a minor coalition party headed by ex-premier Matteo Renzi left him scrambling for fresh support. The 56-year-old premier and his allies are lobbying centrist and unaffiliated senators to back him, and there has been speculation in Rome that he might submit his resignation if he doesn’t secure an absolute majority of 161.

Instead, Conte intends to dig in and push ahead with his legislative agenda for some two weeks or more while he tries to secure further support, the people said, asking not to be named discussing private conversations. Conte’s hand could still be forced if he suffers a shock defeat in the Senate vote. The premier’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Italy’s Conte Determined to Hold On to Power After Senate Vote

The prime minister’s plan relies on Italy Alive’s senators making good on their pledge to abstain rather than vote against the government.

That will lower the threshold for Conte to get the simple majority he needs to avoid being forced to formally offer his resignations to President Sergio Mattarella, who would oversee the process of forging a new government.

But it’s a fragile foundation for governing beyond the short term, because Italian law requires an absolute majority for passing some legislation such as the budget.

Mattarella has pressured Conte to engineer a quick resolution to the problem -- one way or another -- and has stressed the need for a stable majority if he is to remain in power, officials said.

The center-left Democratic Party, the second biggest force in Conte’s coalition, is not giving him a blank check. After a month or so of failed attempts, the PD would push for early elections, according to a senior party official.

The government’s first test will come later on Monday when the lower house holds a confidence vote. While Conte is widely expected to get sufficient votes to reach a majority in the Lower House, the vote could show which centrist parties are open to backing him to continue.

Addressing lawmakers earlier Monday, Conte focused on decisions over spending Italy’s share of the European Union’s recovery fund -- the issue that triggered Renzi’s pullout -- and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cabinet last week approved government plans to borrow an extra 32 billion euros ($39 billion) this year and parliament could endorse that measure as early as Wednesday, the people said.

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