AFP: Italy delays no-confidence debate in rowdy Senate session14 August 2019 | 05:04 | FOCUS News Agency
Interior Minister Salvini's anti-migration League had sought the vote after he pulled the plug on the coalition last week. But a majority of senators from former coalition partners Five Star Movement (M5S) and from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) opposition rejected the motion.
Instead, lawmakers approved an M5S-PD motion calling for a debate next week during which Conte would address the Senate.
Senators were recalled at the height of the holiday season after political groups on Monday failed to agree on a timetable for the vote demanded by Salvini.
He kicked off Tuesday's debate with a stunning U-turn, offering to back a key parliamentary reform of the M5S, after saying last week that he could no longer work with them.
In exchange, the anti-establishment M5S was supposed to back his call for swift elections despite the League's withdrawal from the increasingly acrimonious alliance.
While the government is still in place, the Senate decides whether to initiate a no-confidence vote in the 14-month-old administration of Conte, an independent approved by deputy prime ministers Salvini and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio last year.
After little support emerged for Salvini's call for a no-confidence motion in the Senate, he offered Tuesday to support the M5S reform that would slash the number of lawmakers from 950 to 605.
"Let's vote the cut of 345 parliamentarians and then let's hold an election immediately," Salvini suggested during the noisy Senate session.
Di Maio, who is not a senator, welcomed Salvini's offer to back the M5S reform, but said it was up to President Sergio Mattarella to decide on elections.
"The country has been waiting for years. Next week we cut 345 parliamentarians," Di Maio said on Facebook.
"I am still seriously worried about millions of Italian families and the risk of an increase in VAT."
The M5S, PD and other parties have been holding talks on a transitional government to pass the parliamentary reform and next year's budget to avoid an automatic rise in value-added tax that would hit the least well-off the hardest.
Di Maio also took a swipe at Salvini, noting that he had referred to his former political partner as a "friend" during the Senate debate.
"Friendship is a serious thing, it is a fundamental value in life, extraordinary. And above all, true friends are always loyal," Di Maio said.
Salvini had wanted a vote on Conte as early as Wednesday and for elections to follow in October to capitalise on opinion polls suggesting the League could garner 36-38 percent of votes.
The two parties have seen a severe reversal of fortunes since forming a government after the M5S won more than 32 percent of votes and the League 17 percent in 2018.
In May's European Parliament elections, the League won 34 percent of the vote, twice that of the M5S.
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