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Italy's Matteo Renzi wins final confidence vote, pledging reform

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 - 8:58am IST | Agency: Reuters

  • Matteo Renzi.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won a final parliamentary vote of confidence on Tuesday after pledging to slash red tape and "revolutionise" the economy.

The Chamber of Deputies approved the confidence motion by the comfortable margin of 378 in favour to 220 against, fully empowering the coalition of Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) with the New Centre Right party, centrists and other small groups.

Renzi had been expected to win the vote easily due to the PD's lower house majority.

In his maiden address to the lower house ahead of the vote, Renzi said "Italy's finest page has yet to be written," in a speech that produced many of his trademark rhetorical flourishes but few specific policy commitments.

The 39-year-old Renzi, Italy's youngest prime minister, said radical steps were needed to revive an economy that has barely grown for the past 15 years and restore citizens' confidence in politics.

He promised to overhaul the tax system by "a gigantic operation of simplification", and to cut unemployment well above 12 percent with "the courage to revolutionise the economic and legal system of our country".

Renzi delivered his 50-minute speech in his usual colloquial style, which differs sharply from that of his predecessors. There was little applause even from his parliamentary majority.

Deputies from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement sent out tweets during the speech saying it was devoid of substance.

The outgoing mayor of Florence and leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) ousted his predecessor as prime minister Enrico Letta this month by withdrawing the PD's support from his government.

Renzi's speech spelled out that a "double digit" reduction in labour taxes this year, promised in his address to the Senate, meant a cut of 10 billion euros, rather than the 10 percent which it had been widely interpreted to mean, and which would have meant a cut of around 30 billion euro.

He spoke of the importance of the European Union, saying Italy's six-month presidency of the region from July was "a gigantic opportunity" to establish a greater role for the country in shaping EU policy.

However, he shed no light on whether he would push for Italy to be given leeway to allow its budget deficit to exceed the EU's ceiling of three percent of output, as he had suggested on several occasions prior to becoming prime minister.

"Europe today doesn't give us hope because we have allowed the debate to be dominated by decimal points and percentages," he said.

"We want a Europe where Italy doesn't just go and receive instructions but gives a fundamental contribution, because there can be no Europe without Italy."


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