by Alessandra Cardone
ROME, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta won a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday, laying out a plan of reforms that would include a new electoral law and political and institutional changes aimed at giving political stability and economic growth to the country.
The government received 379 vote in favor (against 212) in the Chamber of Deputies, and 173 votes (against 127) in the Senate. This was the third confidence vote the Italian cabinet won since October, a sign being seen as quite positive in terms of solidity of Letta's cabinet.
"I will fight with all my strength to not let Italy fall back into chaos and I am asking the confidence today to mark a new start for the country," Letta declared to the parliament.
"Our society is still fragile but I believe that now, after enduring so many sacrifices, Italians are ready for a new beginning," he added.
The Italian left-right coalition government is backed by a smaller majority since the centre-right leader and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi was ousted from parliament on Nov. 27 over his tax fraud conviction.
His expulsion resulted in the splitting of the centre-right party. Berlusconi and his followers moved to the opposition, while a consistent part of his former allies gathered in the New Centre-Right party and remained aligned with the cabinet.
"The majority backing Letta's cabinet is smaller now, and needs to be very cohesive to implement what I would call responsibility measures," Federico Niglia, political analyst and professor of history of international relations with LUISS-Guido Carli University of Rome, told Xinhua.
"By this I mean measures such as completing the pension system's reform, fighting tax evasion and reforming the tax system, defining new plans for development and employment," Niglia said.
"The confidence vote was necessary. A wider majority may endure a certain degree of internal disagreement, but a smaller alliance must be cemented on a clear program to survive," he explained.
The government's path may therefore be more straightforward in the future, although not necessarily easier, the analyst suggested.
Letta spoke for nearly 50 minutes before the lower house of the parliament, interrupted by several rounds of applause.
He outlined an 18-month plan of reforms to pull Italy out of the two-year long recession, and set an economic growth of 1 percent in 2014 and 2 percent for 2015 as primary goal.
Letta reserved a relevant part of his speech to condemning anti-European movements.
"Today we have to mark a very strict line," he said. "Some political forces love Europe and want to make it better, because they know that without Europe we would go back to Middle Age ... Others want to block Europe and segregate Italy, building their consensus on populism. To these latest forces I say: don't vote the confidence, don't back my government."
Such a clear appeal didn't come by chance, the analyst said to Xinhua.
In June 2014 Italy will begin a six-month turn at the presidency of the EU, and Letta's plan of reforms requires to be framed in the European context. The Italian prime minister must therefore test how firmly and how consciously his allies would stand on this point.
"Opposition movements such as Berlusconi's Forza Italia or Five-Star Movement (led by former comedian Beppe Grillo n.d.r) are positioning themselves as more and more antagonistic to Europe. The next domestic political alliances will be necessarily defined by this line," the analyst added.
Out of populism and anti-European feeling, social unrest is a third obstacle that may impede the government's action.
"I see a worrisome growth of social instability that might complicate matters ... Popular anger is on the rise because of the growing hardship in the people's living condition, but are random protests without a clear program or list of demands," Niglia explained.
Indeed a new wave of social discontent has fuelled social tensions in the last few months.
On Wednesday, with the parliament gathered for the confidence vote, security measures were tightened in Rome and in other cities where the so-called Pitchfork Movement, mainly farmers, drivers and street merchants, staged their third day of protest against taxes, austerity and unemployment.
"I hope the government will answer to this social pressure not with emergency policies but rather with medium-long term reforms. Social stability is the result of reforms and economic growth and not the other way around," he ended.