Italy’s new gov’t wins first of two confidence votes

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte entered the home stretch Monday of his effort to be formally installed as the head of his second consecutive government, promising a “more respectful” and more pro-European government.

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy’s parliament, on Monday voted comfortably to support Conte’s government by a majority of 343 votes in favor and 263 against. Before it can be formally installed, Conte and his list of ministers must win a similar vote in the Senate Tuesday.

Opinion polls show support for the new government headed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party on the rise, topping 40 percent in the latest survey from the polling firm Opinioni.

“Italy is very divided right now, and it will be a great challenge for any leader to unite the country,” Maria Rossi, the firm’s co-director, told Xinhua.

Addressing lawmakers for one hour and 20 minutes, Conte called for a period of “reform and stability” and promised that his cabinet would open “a new, and hopefully decisive season of reforms.”

“We must recover our sobriety,” Conte said. “Our citizens must develop a renewed faith in our institutions. In the coming months, we cannot waste our time with disputes and clashes.”

He stressed this government would move in accordance with the European Union (EU) to regain a pro-European stance that has long been traditional for Italy, one of the founding members of the integration process.

According to Nicola Pasini, a political scientist with the State University of Milan, Conte’s remarks ahead of Monday’s vote were designed to “illustrate a break from the previous government” in terms of European relations and other key topics.

Pasini told Xinhua that Conte’s message was aimed not only at those set to vote in parliament and to Italian citizens but also to those following events from elsewhere in Europe and at the European Commission in Brussels.

“I think the European Commission will do what it can to have a stable, pro-European government in Italy,” Pasini said. “Conte’s remarks were meant to illustrate to the commission that his government will be what the commissioners want.”

Conte’s new cabinet was sworn in on Thursday after the previous one, also led by Conte, collapsed on Aug. 20 under pressure from the right-wing League party.