Italy's Populists Win Key Vote Amid Coalition Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s populist government won a confidence vote in the Senate, quelling dissent from lawmakers of the Five Star Movement to push through tighter restrictions on asylum-seekers amid coalition tensions.

Senators backed the government by 163 votes in favor and 59 against in the confidence vote, a tactic often used in Italy to force lawmakers into line. Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini wants the restrictions as part of his long-running campaign to stem arrivals by undocumented foreigners.

The migration issue, thanks to which Salvini has overtaken his coalition partner Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star in opinion polls, is just one of the topics causing friction between them as they resist European Union demands to rein in their spending plans.

The coalition partners hold a majority in both houses, although in the 320-seat Senate the two groups only have 14 more votes than the opposition. The center-right Forza Italia party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said it would not take part in the vote.

Six days before the deadline for Italy to submit a revised 2019 budget to the European Commission, Salvini and fellow-deputy premier Di Maio are clashing repeatedly over a series of issues from spending priorities to fighting corruption, highlighting their parties’ contrasting natures.

Di Maio is “angry” and wants to see more “loyalty” from his government allies, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Wednesday. “I am getting tired now,” Corriere della Sera quoted Di Maio as saying.

Newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported that the government was seeking a “soft” procedure in the event that the European Union sanctions Italy over its budget plans, aiming to “reduce financial tensions.”

The League is based in the rich north of Italy and has long campaigned to restrict immigration. The web-based Five Star Movement is strongest in the poor south and has proclaimed the fight against political corruption a priority.

Five Star and the League are also at loggerheads in the lower house of parliament over Five Star’s demand in an anti-corruption bill to scrap time limits on how long people can be prosecuted after an initial trial. Salvini has said the government must “avoid trials that last forever, also for the innocent, which would be a defeat for everyone.”

Salvini’s hand is strengthened in the contest by opinion polls which show the League has leapfrogged its partner since March general elections. The League is backed by 30.4 percent of voters while Five Star is supported by 28.2 percent, according to an SWG survey. This compares with the League’s 17.4 percent and Five Star’s 32.7 percent in March.

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