New Italy PM wins confidence vote on tough reform plans

Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:50pm EST
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By James Mackenzie and Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti comfortably won a vote of confidence in his new government on Thursday after promising rigor and fairness in painful reforms to dig the country out of a financial crisis that threatens the entire euro zone.

Outlining his program earlier in the day, Monti, 68, told the Senate that the survival of the euro partly depended on Italy embarking on radical reforms within weeks. The European Union is facing its most difficult challenge, he added.

Monti won the vote in the Senate by 281 votes to 25, with only the pro-devolution Northern League voting against him.

He faces another confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, at around 1300 GMT on Friday which he is also expected to win comfortably, after which he will be fully empowered.

"The government recognizes that it was formed to resolve a serious emergency," Monti said, setting out sweeping reforms to welfare, pensions and the labor market that are expected to be unpopular.

Monti, who was sworn in on Wednesday at the head of a technocrat government after a rushed transition from discredited ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, said Italy risked having its fate decided by other countries if it did not act.

If it failed, things would get worse, especially for vulnerable members of the population.

The economist is racing to try to end a collapse in market confidence that has pushed Rome's borrowing costs to critical levels.   Continued...