Italian PM wins confidence vote, set to launch radical reforms
REUTERS & AFP
ROME ITALIAN Prime Minister Mario Monti comfortably won a vote of confidence on his new government’s programme in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday.
Monti won the vote by 556 to 61.
His unelected government of technocrats is now fully empowered, having won a confidence vote in the upper house Senate on Thursday.
Monti, who was sworn in on Wednesday, outlined to parliament a broad raft of reform priorities to shore up public finances, increase Italy’s competitiveness and stem an acute debt crisis which threatens the whole euro zone.
In his first speech to parliament, Monti announced a plan to balance Italy’s crucial austerity measures with schemes to boost “growth and equity”, including investing in women and the young as well as tackling unfair privileges.
In his second speech, ahead of the lower house vote, Monti insisted on the importance of making sure Italy is involved in the talks to save the eurozone.
He faces his first international test next week, when he will travel to Brussels to meet EU president Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday, and announced “three-way talks” with France and Germany next week.
The talks with Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel would “ensure that Italy pays a permanent contribution from now on” in resolving the eurozone crisis.
Economic experts and political commentators said the softly-spoken but authoritative technocrat had impressed an audience tired of his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi’s histrionics, which had failed to stave off market pressure.
“Mario Monti showed humility, in spite of laying out a very ambitious programme,” said the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
His speech “showed Italians that politics is not the televised theatricals of the last two decades” and laid bare “problems dating back 20 years, which had been left to rot by the Berlusconi show,” said the Repubblica newspaper.
The scandal-plagued billionaire bowed to intense market pressure and resigned to cries of “Buffoon!” on Saturday, as Italians danced in the streets.
Although Monti is racing to implement initiatives demanded by Europe, he assured Italians fearful of losing their sovereignty that the reforms were not being “imposed by external forces,” insisting: “We are Europe.”