The delicate Italian authorities faces do-or-die votes in parliament

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks at a press conference

By Crispian Balmer

ROM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte faces two days of parliamentary votes that will determine whether his fragile coalition can hold on to power or lose its majority, driving Italy into deeper political turmoil.

Conte will speak in front of the House of Commons on Monday and in front of the House of Lords, the Senate, on Tuesday after a junior partner left the cabinet in a row over dealing with the twin coronavirus and economic crises.

Votes are taking place in both chambers, and Conte is trying to fill the hole left by the raid of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his tiny Italia Viva party.

Attention is particularly focused on the 321-seat Senate, where Conte could have 10 votes less than an absolute majority after his efforts to convince opposition centrists to side with him appeared to have failed.

Renzi has said his 18 senators are likely to abstain on Tuesday. If they do, the coalition will likely win the ballot, but without an absolute majority the government will be inherently unstable and it is not clear whether President Sergio Mattarella Conte would limp in such a scenario.

The co-ruling Democratic Party (PD), which continues to cloud the water, will want a cabinet reshuffle and coalition pact renegotiation if the prime minister takes on the challenge in parliament, said a PD official who refused to be named.

Italia Viva has announced that it will return to the coalition if its political demands are met. "Our problems can be solved in two hours," said party legislator Ettore Rosato to Sky Italia TV.

However, both the center-left PD and its coalition ally, the 5 Star Movement, have declared they want nothing more to do with Renzi and have accused him of treason.

There's also little chance 5-Star will accept a key demand from Renzi – that Italy seek a loan from the Eurozone rescue fund, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), to help its healthcare system cope with COVID-19 . The pandemic has killed nearly 82,000 Italians, the sixth highest number in the world.

"I will never vote for a government that considers itself to be the best in the world, has 82,000 deaths and has not taken over the ESM," Renzi told state broadcaster RAI on Sunday.

Critics of the loan program say it could come with undesirable conditions and note that no other EU country has drawn on the fund.

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