Italy’s lower house clears final hurdle for Conte government

A day after Italy’s new populist government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (pictured) won the crucial confidence vote in the Senate, lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies cleared the final hurdle by supporting it in a 350-236 vote, with 35 lawmakers abstaining.

The coalition government of anti-immigrant League party and anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) was inaugurated on Friday after nearly three months of political uncertainty.

Hours before the vote, Conte said Italy would be listened to and respected at the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Toronto, Canada, on Friday and Saturday.

“The first position of Italy will be to make itself known, and the second will be to make itself respected,” Conte was quoted by ANSA news agency as saying.

Conte said his government’s top priorities will be ending illegal immigration, resetting relations with European partners and strengthening ties with Russia.

On Tuesday, the populist coalition won a  crucial confidence vote 171 to 117 in the Senate with 25 senators abstaining.

“We’ll be the advocates of an opening towards Russia,” Conte said on Tuesday, adding that the new coalition would work towards ending EU sanctions that hurt Russian civil society.

He said the new government would protect the rights of every migrant who arrives legally in the country.

He said the two parties in the new coalition have been accused of being populist and anti-establishment. If populism means the attitude of listening to people’s needs, then the his government is populist to the core, Conte said.