ROME Dec 14 Italian Prime Minister Paolo
Gentiloni sought the backing of the fragmented Senate for his
new government on Wednesday as a fresh threat emerged to the
legacy of his predecessor Matteo Renzi.
Gentiloni won a vote of confidence in the lower chamber of
parliament on Tuesday and needs to secure a similar vote in the
upper house Senate before his government can take office.
Renzi resigned last week after voters rejected his
constitutional reform plan in a referendum. Another of his
flagship projects, a shake-up of the labour market, could suffer
the same fate with Italy's main union demanding a plebiscite on
Italy's Constitutional Court said on Wednesday it would
review the request on Jan. 11. If it gives the green light to
the CGIL union, a referendum on the Jobs Act could be held
before next summer.
Business leaders denounced the move to overturn the reform,
which made it easier to hire and fire workers, and the labour
minister told reporters the union initiative made it more likely
that national elections would be brought forward.
Following the referendum defeat, Renzi supporters fear the
anti-establishment drive will push Italians to shoot down the
Jobs Act. By bringing forward the national vote, the referendum
would be automatically delayed by up to 12 months.
"It seems to me that the prevailing attitude is to go to
elections soon, before any referendum on the Jobs Act," said
Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti.
Stung by his Dec. 4 referendum defeat, Renzi has said he
wants elections by next June, a year ahead of schedule, but a
new electoral law needs to be drawn up first.
In a speech to the Senate, Gentiloni said his government,
which is a virtual carbon copy of the previous administration,
would seek cross-party consensus on the new law.
Many senators representing opposition parties quit the
chamber before Gentiloni spoke to protest over the make-up of
the new cabinet, saying the recent referendum showed Italians
did not want continuity but rather a new beginning.
Gentiloni's room for manoeuvre in the 320-seat Senate is
tighter than in the lower house, with the two main coalition
parties controlling little more than 140 seats. However, smaller
factions have indicated they will back Gentiloni for now, which
should give him a majority of at least eight seats.
One of the first problems awaiting the new government is a
gathering banking crisis.
Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Italy's third-biggest lender,
needs 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) of fresh cash before the
end of the year to stay afloat and is widely expected to seek
funds from the state to stave off collapse, bankers say.
(Additional reporting by Francesca Piscioneri; Editing by