Europe, Headlines

ITALY: Government Gets Senate Vote of Confidence

Jorge Pina

ROME, Apr 10 1997 (IPS) - The Italian government got the Senate vote of confidence Thursday night, but there are still doubts about how long they will be able to survive the crisis sparked by the Communist Refoundation (PRC) rebels.

The Senate approved the government by 162 votes to 81, with one abstention.

Support came from the parties which make up the centre-left and the PRC, which supports them from outside the party, with the right-wing coalition and the Northern League against.

The PRC caused the crisis yesterday when its lower house members voted against sending a military mission into Albania.

The government was forced to look to the centre-right for support to push through the motion for an Italian Task Force to head multinational humanitarian action in Albania.

Early next Monday, 2,500 Italian troops will leave to join the 6,000 strong Task Force.

The motion of confidence will be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies tomorrow and will be voted on Saturday.

The government has a majority in the Senate, but needs the support of the 35 PRC deputies in the Lower House.

However, the communists are expected to give the government their general support tomorrow, for otherwise the 11 month-old government – the first centre-left leadership in Italian history – would have been forced out of power.

Italian President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, had asked his head of government, Romano Prodi to check he still had a parliamentary majority on Wednesday night.

The way the parliamentary system works in Italy means a majority is totally essential in order to a government to remain in power.

However, Italy’s political analysts believe the crisis is still in the air and could reemerge at any moment, above all when the government brings its scalpel to the state social security system, which will not have Communist approval.

Leader of the PRC senators, Luigi Marino, said in the Senate “will continue to support the government as long as it avoids cutbacks in social spending.”

The government is aiming to reduce this in order to fulfill the Maastricht agreements and enter the European Monetary Union (EMU) which will bring in its new currency, the euro, in 1999.

Prodi told the Senate the “precise government objective is to improve the State accountes in order to allow Italy to join the EMU.”

The Democratic Left Party (PDS), the strongest force in the government coalition, was particularly chilly towards Prodi today, because it felt he should have been more clear and tougher with the communists.

The PDS said this had been the chance to demand PRC support for the government coalition programme because in his opinion they cannot keep on if they have to argue every measure the executive wishes to bring in with the communists.

Head of the PDS senators, Cesare Salvi, said “a strong, cohesive and determined majority, justly considered necessary by Prodi, unfortunately does not exist.”

He said this must be built on the basis of the programme contents, and that “this task is waiting for us next week.”

Deep change is needed, he added, “not in the content, but in the mode of working together.”

The PDS siad the PRC split off from the government majority yesterday with its “no” to the mission in Albania, and they cannot act as if it never happened.

The former communists want a series of meetings between the parties making up the government majority, in order to carry the programme ahead, without the PRC undermining them.

Leader of the right wing National Alliance, Gianfranco Fini, said Prodi’s intervention in the Senate had even left government forces themselves unsatisfied.

Fini concluded the government will get the parliamentary vote of confidence, but that its deep divisions will still remain.

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