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Monti wins second confidence vote

Premier vows to carry out 'almost impossible' task

18 November, 15:36
Monti wins second confidence vote (ANSA) - Rome, November 18 - Premier Mario Monti on Friday won the second of two confidence votes needed to empower his new emergency reform executive to start moving Italy away from the heart of the eurozone debt crisis.

As in the Senate Thursday night, the vote in the House showed an overwhelming majority, with 556 ayes in the 630-seat chamber, most of the 61 nays coming from the regionalist Northern League, which vehemently opposes Monti.

During the debate Monti denied the suggestion he was representing shadowy international financial interests, recalling that during his time as EU competition commissioner multinationals like General Electric and Microsoft had come to view him "like Saddam Hussein" because of his anti-trust stringency.

Monti, installed after ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi lost his majority last week, aims to pass EU-mandated reforms including reintroducing a property tax dropped by Berlusconi, pension reforms, and freeing up the labour market in favour of young people left behind by a decade of stagnation.

Spending cuts and state-asset sales are needed to whittle down Italy's huge public debt, 120% of GDP, the target of speculators who have pushed bond yields to the 7% mark at which other countries needed a bailout. "It's an almost impossible task but we'll make it," said Monti, who is also aiming to kick start growth while working with Germany and France to bolster the euro's defences. Monti reiterated he was bidding to stay until the next scheduled elections in 2013, after which "we won't last a moment longer".

Berlusconi, leader of the biggest party in both houses, denied saying he would pull the plug on Monti when he decided to.

"The Monti government will stay (in power) for all the remaining time," he said.

Because of the debt crisis, Italy had been forced to turn to a team of unelected technocrats, "outside the canons of democracy," he added.

The secretary of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, Angelino Alfano, said the PdL would vote for Monti "government of truce".

The leader of the second-biggest party, Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party, said "we'll vote confidence (in Monti), without setting conditions or timeframes".

The veteran firebrand leader of the Northern League, Umberto Bossi, said: "Monti is a cover, people are really angry, they'll get rid of him".

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