Renzi Claims Majorities in Both Houses as Allies Express DoubtsAndrew Frye
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won his first confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, demonstrating the ability to build majorities in both houses of parliament even as allies expressed their doubts.
The 630-seat Chamber backed Renzi 378-220 for his second victory of the day yesterday, following a win in the Senate shortly after midnight in Rome. The coalition supporting 39-year-old Renzi, who stepped into power last week, is much the same as the alliance that stood behind former Prime Minister Enrico Letta for 10 months through Feb. 13.
Renzi is getting a first-hand glimpse of the fractious parliament that toppled four prime ministers since 2008. The unelected premier watched from his bench in the Chamber as the debate underscored Italy’s political instability. Opposition lawmakers affiliated with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered their praise for Renzi, while some members of the premier’s alliance were more critical.
“I have to say, in absolute truth, it’s hard to find new items in the program you presented,” Giuseppe De Mita, a lawmaker with the pro-government For Italy party, said during the debate in the Chamber. “I’d like to emphasize a few doubts,” he said before criticizing Renzi’s approach to rewriting the election law and reorganizing local government.
The majority was slimmer in the Senate, where the premier carried the 320-member chamber 169-139. Renzi’s Democratic Party, which accounts for about a third of the seats in the Senate and nearly half in the lower house, was joined by the NCD, a party led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, ex-Premier Mario Monti’s Civic Choice and For Italy.
Italian 10-year-bond yield declined 3 basis points to 3.59 percent in Rome yesterday. That’s 14 basis points lower than the yield on Feb. 12, the day before Renzi turned the Democratic Party against Letta.
“Over the past few days, financial markets have given a lot of credit to Mr. Renzi, but now they want to see him delivering,” Fabio Fois, an economist for Barclays Plc, said in a research report.
Renzi, the mayor of Florence since 2009, rose to prominence as an outspoken government critic, earning the nickname “Demolition Man” for urging established politicians to step aside. In recent days, faced with doubts aired by allies, the premier has dug in. Renzi’s program, which places a reorganization of government institutions at the top of its priorities, must move forward, he said.
“We have to set a good example,” Renzi said yesterday in response to the parliamentary debate. The government plans to “reduce the number of lawmakers, produce large savings from the cost of politics” and simplify the public administration, he said.
On Dec. 11, Letta won 173 votes in the Senate and 379 in the Chamber in confidence votes, meaning the former premier had slightly broader backing.
Renzi got the support of For Italy’s deputies and senators only after “a tormented debate,” party member Gaetano Piepoli said in the lower chamber yesterday. Even Democratic Party lawmakers emphasized their support was conditional, with Stefano Fassina saying his vote wasn’t “a blank check,” and Giuseppe Civati telling Renzi he expected “to get booed” by his constituents for helping the government.
Members of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party were complimentary of Renzi even as they voted against the government.
“I, for that man, Matteo Renzi, would give a vote of confidence,” Forza Italia lawmaker Michaela Biancofiore said in a speech to the Chamber yesterday. “He belongs, like us, to the Apple generation of Steve Jobs, who told young people, ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish.’”
Berlusconi, expelled from the Senate in November for tax fraud, still leads the 60 senators and 67 deputies in Forza Italia. The former premier and Renzi are cooperating on a new election law, which has prompted speculation Forza Italia could offer support to the government should it be needed in the future.
Divisions in the Democratic Party were exposed when Letta was mentioned. Renzi, who won leadership of the party in December, withdrew the group’s support from Letta on Feb. 13, prompting the government to fall. Renzi was then appointed as premier of the existing legislature without passing through snap elections.
In one instance, Renzi tweeted his thanks to former Democratic Party General Secretary Pier Luigi Bersani for showing up at the vote yesterday after spending months recovering from a brain hemorrhage. Bersani, a one-time rival of Renzi’s within the party, said he had other reasons for attending.
“I came here to give Enrico a hug,” Bersani said in reference to Letta, according to news agency Ansa.