New Italy government seeks green light from Senate

Rome (AFP) –


Italy's new government faces a confidence vote in the upper house of parliament Tuesday, the last hurdle to overcome before the pro-European executive can get down to work.

The coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and centre-left Democratic Party (PD), led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, easily won a confidence vote in the lower house on Monday.

Tuesday's ballot was set to be a closer affair as the government has a smaller Senate majority -- about eight votes more than the majority of 161 needed.

But political watchers have said it is expected to be given the green light.

Conte on Monday presented his programme to applause from supporters and boos from the opposition. Tuesday's debate ahead of the vote was similarly charged, with cries of "traitor!" from the far-right.

Five Star (M5S) and the PD agreed to join forces after far-right strongman Matteo Salvini pulled his anti-immigration League party from a coalition with the M5S in August, toppling the government.

Salvini has accused the M5S and PD, who have long despised each other, of wedding purely over their dislike for him.

"Our doors are open to those who think first of their dignity rather than their seat (in power)," he said Tuesday as he reached out to M5S supporters in particular who may feel betrayed by the Movement's new alliance with the centre-left.

The most pressing issue facing Rome will be the upcoming 2020 budget, a key test for relations with Brussels.

- 'Not good enough' -

Conte on Monday called for the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, which limits budget deficits to three percent of gross domestic product in member states, to be "improved" and simplified.

The pact was the main bone of contention between the European Commission and the previous coalition in heavily indebted Italy, which must submit a balanced budget to Brussels in the coming weeks.

Ratings agency Moody's on Monday said it expected the new government to be less euro-sceptical and have better relations with Brussels and fellow European countries.

Italy's former centre-left premier Paolo Gentiloni was Tuesday handed the economy portfolio in the incoming European Commission.

The government is also facing calls to ease Salvini's hardline immigration rules, which ban charity ships that have rescued migrants from entering Italian waters.

Both the Ocean Viking, which is run by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, and German charity Sea-Eye's Alan Kurdi are currently stuck at sea, appealing for a safe port to disembark those they have saved.

The Alan Kurdi, which has been asking to dock for 10 days, was refused permission late Monday, according to Sea-Eye.

"The government's first act is closing the ports to the Alan Kurdi. This is not good enough, not at all," PD member of parliament Matteo Orfini tweeted.

"Getting rid of Salvini and keeping his policies does not seem very smart to me," he said, calling for an immediate change to the rules.