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Italy's Conte wins Senate vote to keep fragile government afloat: final tally

A general view of upper house of parliament, as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks ahead of a confidence vote after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pulled his party out of government, in Rome, Italy, January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/Pool

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte won a confidence vote in the upper house Senate on Tuesday allowing him to remain in office after a junior partner quit his coalition last week in the midst of the raging COVID pandemic.

Conte overcame a similar confidence motion in the lower house on Monday. Had he lost either vote, he would have had to resign.

He won in the 321-seat Senate by 156 to 140, with 16 abstentions, falling short of the 161 votes he needed for an absolute majority.

An initial, informal tally had put the count at 153 to 140, but the numbers were modified after a lengthy discussion in the chamber over whether a handful of late ballots were valid.

The small Italia Viva party, which abandoned the cabinet in a row over Conte’s handling of the health crisis and economic recession, abstained, saving him from defeat.

To help underpin his victory, Conte had to rely on the backing of three life senators and two members of the opposition centre-right Forza Italia party.

Although Conte’s 17-month-old administration can remain in power, it will struggle to implement any meaningful policy programme in the deeply divided parliament, unless the prime minister can convince more lawmakers to join his coalition ranks.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Gavin Jones