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Italy's coalition can 'hold its head high' Conte tells MPs as he tries to avoid government collapse

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As Conte wrapped up his nearly hour-long discussion, some lawmakers held up: “Conte Resign” signs. He got a standing ovation from much of the rest of the house, however.
As Conte wrapped up his nearly hour-long discussion, some lawmakers held up: “Conte Resign” signs. He got a standing ovation from much of the rest of the house, however.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
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Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte told lawmakers on Monday that his government can "hold its head high" as he tries to prevent the collapse of the ruling coalition.

Conte is fighting for political survival after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pulled his party's support from the government last Wednesday.

Renzi's Italia Viva party accuses Conte of using the pandemic to centralise power and not doing enough on certain issues including education, infrastructure and the management of the pandemic. It also opposes Conte's plans to spend the €209 billion the country will receive from the European Union to revive the economy hit hard by COVID-19.

Speaking to the lower chamber of Parliament at 12:00 CET on Monday, Conte said: "Did we always take the best decisions? Everyone can make their evaluations."

"For my part, I can say the government worked with the utmost care and attention for the delicate balances, including constitutional ones."

"If I can speak in the name of the whole government, with head held high, it is not out of the arrogance of someone who believes not to have made errors,” he added. “It is out of awareness of how the whole government put all of its physical and mental energy into best protecting the nation."

Italia Viva is polling low but its 48 lawmakers — including 18 in the Senate — are key to provide Conte's centre-left government its parliamentary majority.

Conte leads his second coalition. The first one collapsed in August 2019 after Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League Party, withdrew from government in the hope of triggering an early election. But the gamble did not pay off, with Conte able to secure another power-sharing agreement with the left-wing Five Star Movement (MS5), the centre-left Democratic Party, a left-wing parliamentary group and Italia Viva.

He expressed perplexity at the current political crisis, which he said has "no plausible basis" as "the pandemic is still in full course".

Some lawmakers help up "Conte Resign" signs as he spoke on Monday but most gave him a standing ovation at the end.

Conte is to speak to the Senate on Tuesday morning. Both addresses are followed by a vote akin to a motion of confidence.