Italy's new government wins second key vote

Italian prime minister Mario Monti speaks with his foreign minister before a vote of confidence in Italy's lower house of Parliament.

Story highlights

  • Monti's government wins the support of the lower house of Parliament
  • He overwhelmingly won a vote of confidence in the Senate Thursday
  • Monti has set out plans to curb Italy's huge debt and boost growth
  • Fears Italy may not be able to manage its debt have spooked global markets
Italy's new Prime Minister Mario Monti won a key vote of confidence in his new government Friday in Italy's lower house of Parliament, as he seeks to lead the country out of financial crisis.
The lower house voted overwhelmingly in support of his fledgling government Friday, with 556 votes in favor to 61 against, a day after the Senate also voted 281 to 25 in favor.
Monti, who took office Wednesday, presented his proposals for the new technocratic government Thursday.
He said the main points of his program are balancing the budget, promoting growth, and cutting down on social disparities.
He also said overhauling Italy's pension system, fighting tax evasion and cracking down on organized crime will be key steps.
The new prime minister, who replaces the flamboyant Silvio Berlusconi, has said he will also serve as finance minister until he nominates someone else for the post.
Fears that Italy, the fourth largest economy in Europe, may not be able to manage its enormous debt have spooked global markets in recent weeks and sent the cost of government borrowing soaring.
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Winning the confidence vote demonstrates that Monti's government has the support of parliament to carry out its program.
Speaking to lawmakers ahead of the vote Friday, Monti said his government's intention was to stay in power only until the next elections, due in 2013, and that would only happen with Parliament's support.
"We will last as long as we have your vote of confidence," he said. "We will not last one minute longer."
He blamed the country's current economic difficulties on the policies of the previous government, saying Italy should not look to lay the blame elsewhere.
He warned Italians that the choices his government must make would be neither easy nor popular.
"Our task is almost impossible but we'll succeed," he said.
However, a senior member of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, Fabrizio Cicchito, rejected any suggestion that the eurozone crisis was Berlusconi's fault -- and reminded lawmakers that without the support of his party, Monti's government could fall.
"By tendering his resignation, Berlusconi carried out two acts of responsibility: he resigned, and he gave his support to this government, without which we wouldn't be here today discussing your government but rather early elections," he said.
Monti won the backing of Berlusconi's political party, the strongest force in Parliament, as well as Italy's largest left-wing party on Tuesday.
The prime minister will travel to Brussels, Belgium, next Tuesday for talks with European leaders on his new government's first steps.
The 68-year-old former European Union commissioner also spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.
Monti has said his government is studying some measures to increase revenue, including adjusting real estate and wealth taxes. He noted that Italy's real estate tax is significantly lower than other countries.
As politicians debated overhauling parts of Italy's financial system, hundreds of students demonstrated in Rome and Milan Thursday, with protesters saying they don't want to pay for debt problems they didn't cause.
Italy has one of the highest national debts in Europe at €1.9 trillion (nearly $2.6 trillion) -- about 120% of GDP -- and has seen low growth in recent years.
Berlusconi resigned Saturday night, ending an era in Italian politics. After 18 years in and out of the prime minister's office, he was brought down by difficulties in pushing through budget cuts.
Berlusconi was the second prime minister to resign this month over the debt crisis sweeping across Europe. Last week, Greece's George Papandreou was replaced by Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank official.