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Italian coalition wins vote in Senate letting it take office

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By Reuters
Italian coalition wins vote in Senate letting it take office
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reacts after a confidence vote in the Senate in Rome, Italy September 10, 2019 REUTERS/Remo Casilli   -   Copyright  REMO CASILLI(Reuters)

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s new government won a confidence vote in the upper house Senate on Tuesday following a stormy debate, with the far-right accusing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of betraying voters by shunning early elections.

Conte, backed by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and centre-left Democratic Party (PD), won an initial confidence motion in the lower house on Monday, meaning his coalition can now forge ahead with its pro-European agenda.

It took the Senate vote by 169 to 133. The result effectively gives Conte an eight seat majority in the 321-seat chamber, meaning it might struggle to keep power when it tries to legislate on particularly divisive issues like immigration.

Once bitter enemies, the 5-Star and PD unexpectedly agreed to join forces last month after the far-right League walked out of the previous coalition with 5-Star in a failed effort to trigger snap elections and cash in on its surging popularity.

Relations between League leader Matteo Salvini and Conte, a law professor with no party affiliation, have grown increasingly fractious and the two men exchanged insults in a rowdy session of the usually sedate Senate.

“Prime Minister Conte, I do not envy you,” Salvini said. “You got your position through betrayal. I couldn’t sit there even for 15 minutes. I don’t have power, but I have my dignity and the affection of the Italian people.”

Conte said that by attempting to “unilaterally and arbitrarily” bring about early elections Salvini had acted with “arrogance and little knowledge of constitutional law”.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Angelo Amante, writing by Crispian Balmer, editing by Gavin Jones)