Italian Senate rejects motion of no-confidence in PM Renzi

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 19, 2016 4:15 PM

By Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday defeated the first of two parliamentary no-confidence motions tabled by opposition parties that accuse his government of conflicts of interest and bowing to industrial and banking lobbies.

The motion, filed in the upper house Senate by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, was beaten back as expected, by 183 votes to 96. Renzi could rely on the support of his center Democratic Party (PD) and its small center allies.

Renzi, who would have been forced to resign if he had lost the vote, defended his government's record and said the motions were a waste of parliament's time and aimed only at grabbing the attention of the media.

"Politics is about respecting those who govern and it's about constructive opposition, not constantly shouting," he told the senators. He then left the Senate without waiting for the vote, to the protests of the opposition.

The 41-year-old premier, who took office in February 2014, has seen his personal approval ratings fall steadily over the last year, although the PD remains Italy's most popular party, according to opinion polls.

He got a boost on Sunday when a referendum aimed at curbing Italy's offshore oil and gas industry failed to secure the necessary quorum, with a sizeable majority of voters shunning the ballot as Renzi had advised.

Late on Tuesday night Renzi faced a second no-confidence motion, brought jointly by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's center Forza Italia party and the right-wing Northern League. Renzi was expected to win that vote as well.

The motions follow the resignation last month of Industry Minister Federica Guidi in an influence-peddling scandal.

Phone-tapped conversations released by police appeared to show Guidi assuring her partner the government would pass legislation that helped his energy business.

"This government has to go because it only acts in the interests of the lobbies, their friends and their relatives," 5-Star founder Beppe Grillo said on his blog before the vote.

In December, Constitutional Reforms Minister Maria Elena Boschi, one of Renzi's closest allies, faced down calls to resign over an alleged conflict of interest after a banking scandal that left thousands of savers out of pocket.

Her father, a former vice-president of one of the banks involved, was fined by the Bank of Italy for misconduct.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)