Italy’s Conte Resisting Pressure to Resign as Senate Vote Looms

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is resisting pressure to resign in the run-up to a critical vote in the Senate that could topple his fragile administration, newspapers said.

While the premier isn’t currently planning to quit, he may change his mind if he fails to recruit enough senators ahead of a vote on Wednesday or Thursday to approve the annual report of the justice minister, daily Corriere della Sera said.

Conte is struggling to prove he still commands a majority in the Senate after the defection of a key ally on Jan. 13. Il Messaggero reported that Conte may consider resigning before the vote if he sees no room to secure a majority.

Italy’s Conte Resisting Pressure to Resign as Senate Vote Looms

“I did what I could but the numbers remain uncertain,” Bruno Tabacci, a lawmaker seeking to broaden Conte’s support, said in an interview with La Repubblica on Sunday. “I suggested an act of clarity to Conte: step down to form a new government. And if he doesn’t succeed, we go to elections.”

While winning confidence votes in both houses of Parliament last week, he fell short of an outright majority in the Senate. To make up the shortfall, Conte is targeting senators from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, centrists, unaffiliated lawmakers and even members of Italy Alive, the party led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that abandoned the coalition.

So far, the vote count in the Senate would hold at the 156 mark he won in a confidence vote last week, Corriere said, adding that it could be even fewer for the justice motions. That did represent more than half the votes cast, but fell short of the 161-seat threshold that he needs to pass key legislation including budget laws.

Italian bonds fell Friday, bringing 10-year yields to 0.75%. The premium over German bonds, a key gauge of risk in the region, widened 8 basis points to 126 points, the highest level since November.

Although some of the premier’s allies are also raising the specter of early elections, this is widely considered an unlikely option, officials who asked not to be named discussing confidential talks said on Friday.

Several coalition members are against going to the polls in the near future as they fear that a vote would usher in the center-right opposition led by Matteo Salvini. They have also cited the pandemic, a recession and the need to manage the European Union’s recovery package as reasons to avoid an election. Some lawmakers in the center-left Democratic Party are seeking to restart talks with Renzi to avoid an election, La Repubblica reported.

“If we were to go to elections, it might not be this government that presents the Recovery plan,” Vincenzo Amendola, minister for European affairs, told La Stampa. “It would be very serious for the country and a paradox for the government allies who have fought and won a battle to improve it.”

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