PM 'not looking for new majority'

PM, president's office deny reports on new majority talks

(ANSA) - Rome, February 17 - Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday opened a cabinet meeting on the '2023 agenda', the program he hopes will see the government through to the end of the parliamentary term, one day after denying that he was looking for a new majority amid tension in the ruling coalition.
    The meeting on Monday will focus on university, research, school and digital innovation and will involve all cabinet members including ex-premier Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva (IV), the party at the center of a row with the premier over changes to the statute of limitations.
    The premier's office on Sunday denied that Conte was "looking for other majorities than the one currently supporting the government".
    President Sergio Mattarella, who met with Conte on Saturday amid the row on the justice reform, expressed through his office "surprise" over newspaper reports alleging that the talks focused on a potential new majority coalition to replace IV.
    Renzi for his part said "these are days full of useless controversies" and cited Chinese philosopher Confucius saying "patience is power".
    "We need patience to bear with fake news".
    Renzi's IV party has threatened to table a no confidence motion in Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede over a controversial reform of Italy's criminal trial legislation.
    The proposed measure approved by the cabinet includes the so-called "lodo Conte bis", a compromise solution to the wrangle about the statute of limitations reform.
    Renzi on Friday reiterated that the lodo Conte was unconstitutional and said "we won't give up trying to change" Bonafede's reform.
    "If Conte wants to, he can banish us, we're allies and not subjects".
    Renzi on Thursday had issued his latest ultimatum to Bonafede, prompting a sharp response from Premier Giuseppe Conte.
    "Italia Viva needs to tell us what it wants to do, it needs to clarify not just to me but to the country", the prime minister said.
    Unlike the other parties supporting the government, IV opposed the "lodo Conte bis", a compromise on the issue proposed Conte after it staunchly opposed Bonafede's reform that puts the statute of limitations on ice after a first-instance court ruling.
    The aim is to stop offenders getting off thanks to their lawyers' ability to draw out proceedings until the statute of limitations kicks in.
    Renzi argues there is a risk of people getting embroiled in never-ending trials and the slow pace of Italy's justice system getting worse.
    The reform has also come under fire from judges and criminal lawyers, as well as opposition parties.
    Conte's compromise would see the statute of limitations put on ice when a first-instance conviction is upheld at the appeals level.
    In Italy's three-tier justice system, convictions are not considered definitive until the appeals process has been exhausted.
    IV voted with the opposition on the motion, as it has done in previous votes on the statute of limitations reform.
    The motion was defeated.