Italy PM Matteo Renzi Wins Confidence Vote, Vows to Focus on Italy's Sick Economy

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By Rama Mohan | February 26, 2014 1:25 AM EST

Italy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won the crucial confidence vote in the country's parliament on 25 February, and vowed to focus more on the country's stagnated economy.

Renzi was sworn-in as Italy's Prime Minister on 22 February. The youngest ever Italian PM also pushed for electoral reforms in the country, the New York Times reported.

Reuters
Matteo Renzi looks on during a political meeting in Turin. Reuters

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Renzi has formed an unusual young cabinet, with many newcomers joining the national government.

Renzi outlined four immediate priorities: repayment of unpaid government debts to private firms by using a state investment and loan fund; support for small and medium enterprises squeezed by the credit crunch; reductions in income and labor taxes; and a comprehensive overhaul of the justice system, including changes to make business easier.

The Senate voted 169-139 to confirm Renzi's broad coalition, which ranges from his center-left Democrats to center-right forces formerly loyal to ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. 

Renzi needed at least 155 votes to clinch the victory, one of two mandatory confidence votes. The second vote, in the Chamber of Deputies, was expected on 25 February. Renzi's coalition has a comfortable majority in the lower chamber. But he had a closer call in the Senate, where his coalition's numbers were tighter, especially after some of his own Democrats questioned on the eve of the vote, if he deserved their backing.

There has been loud grumbling among the Democrats themselves over Renzi's heavy-handed tactics to wrest the premiership from fellow Democrat Enrico Letta. His predecessor led a coalition with the same tense partners for 10 months but Renzi engineered his ouster after industrialists and union leaders grew impatient with tentative efforts to energize the economy after years of stagnation.

However, in the end, the potential defectors closed ranks despite skepticism, after Renzi made a speech that was short on details on how he would quickly revive the economy.

"I don't believe that a government of this type can last four years," said Felice Casson, a leading Democrat who said he voted for Renzi despite indigestion over the novice premier's leadership.

The Prime Minister insisted that debt-laden Italy must heal its public finances not because Germany's Angela Merkel or the European Central Bank chief want that but because of it's our children who seek a future, said abcnews.go.com.

He promised new laws to slash payroll taxes to encourage hiring but did not say how Italy would recoup the lower tax revenues.

Renzi cautioned that the country's economic sickness is dragging down its younger generation who cannot afford to go out for pizza. He said gross national product had dropped sharply since 2008, while youth unemployment had nearly doubled to 41.6 percent.

"These are the numbers of a crisis. They are the numbers of a collapse," he said.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Matteo Renzi looks on during a political meeting in Turin. Reuters
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