Monti gets down to business after huge Yes vote

 

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The Independent Online

Mario Monti's new government has won a vote of confidence in parliament by a record margin after the technocrat-premier urged MPs to support his unelected cabinet until 2013.

The lower Chamber of Deputies voted 556-61 for his administration of academics, bankers and company executives. On Thursday his government won in the upper house, the Senate, by a similarly impressive margin.

Before yesterday's vote, Mr Monti urged MPs to not "pull the plug" on his government before elections due in 2013, no matter how painful his measures to cut debt and boost growth.

The economist, 68, has also made clear his intention to return Italy to the centre of eurozone decision-making and will next week hold talks with the French leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Germany's Angela Merkel.

Mr Monti, a former EU competition commissioner, is also due to meet EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.

Mr Monti has pledged to swiftly implement reforms pledged by Silvio Berlusconi's outgoing government before further measures of his own. Markets responded positively, with Italy's borrowing costs down again yesterday.

Despite Mr Monti stressing the need for potentially contentious liberalisation of labour laws and a crackdown on tax evasion, major parties on both left and right appear to be on board for now.

Mario Baldassarri, a senator in the small centre-right FLI, said after the Senate speech: "What I heard was music to my ears. He's prioritised growth and social fairness."

Anna Finocchiaro, Senate leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, added: "We are able to accept the word 'sacrifice' if it is accompanied by the words 'equality' and 'opportunity'."

Mr Monti dismissed as "offensive and pure fantasy" suggestions that his cabinet represented the interests of international finance and reminded MPs of his tough curbs on big business during his stint at the EU.

Mr Berlusconi was among those to argue that an unelected cabinet represents a suspension of democracy.

The tycoon, 75, returned to the lower house yesterday as an MP, suggesting he intends to stay active in parliament.

But he denied media reports earlier this week that claimed he had criticised the administration. He said: "The new government has started well."

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