Rome: Italy's prime minister appealed to fellow politicians to continue backing his government on Tuesday, local time, saying the coronavirus pandemic had hit the country like "a hurricane" and now was not the time for a political crisis.
Giuseppe Conte faces a confidence vote in the senate, the upper house of Parliament, later today, with the risk that if he loses he may have to resign.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announces new restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Rome.Credit:AP
That would tip Italy into deep uncertainty at a time when it is in the grip of a second wave of Covid-19 infections and confronts the worst economic downturn since the Second World War. The death toll so far is more than 82,000.
Conte, a former law professor who was little known until being chosen as prime minister in 2018 by the two parties in the coalition, won a confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament on Monday.
But securing a majority in the senate is a much tougher proposition after Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, withdrew the support of his small Italia Viva party last week. Renzi, who accused the government of mishandling the response to the pandemic, took with him 18 senators.
In an hour-long speech to the senate, Conte said: "We are confronting an epochal challenge." The pandemic had generated a "primordial fear" among millions of Italians.
He said Renzi's decision to pull the plug on the coalition was unthinkable at a time when hundreds of people were dying each day.
Italians had struggled to understand the reasons for the political crisis and politicians were "at risk of losing contact with reality".
"This is a crisis that has come at a crucial time, in the midst of the pandemic, with families losing their loved ones," said the prime minister, who wore a face mask throughout his address.
He said the coalition had handled an extremely challenging year "with responsibility" and said it had a "broad and courageous" agenda for the country going forward.
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