Italian PM survives vote of confidence

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ITALY'S Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, easily survived a confidence vote in the Senate yesterday after putting his government's future on the line in order to keep his promise to have electoral reform passed before parliament's summer recess.

He called the confidence vote on a bill to reform RAI, Italy's public broadcasting corporation, to clear the decks and allow the parliament to start debating electoral reform as scheduled tomorrow.

The Northern League and the neo- fascists had tabled more than 2,500 amendments between them which threatened to bog down the debate and delay the electoral reform bill. The vote will take place today or tomorrow morning.

The bill is making its way through the Chamber of Deputies and is scheduled to have its final vote there tomorrow before passing immediately to the Senate.

When he took power two months ago Mr Ciampi, the former governor of the Bank of Italy, pledged that his 'absolute priority' was to see electoral reform passed by the summer recess at the end of July. It was his first confidence vote since the one which confirmed him in office, when he had a comfortable majority thanks to the benign abstention of opposition parties, including the former Communists and the Northern League.

The RAI bill is an attempt to return its three television and three radio channels to the business of fair public broadcasting after being misused for decades as a source of power and patronage by the political parties.

The former Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita said yesterday that he would give up his parliamentary immunity over allegations that he misused funds destined for victims of a 1980 earthquake in his native Irpinia area of southern Italy, in which some 3,000 people died and 300,000 houses were destroyed.