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ROME (AP) — Premier Mario Draghi's government easily won two confidence votes early Tuesday, securing approval from lawmakers in Parliament's lower chamber for a key justice system overhaul that Italy needs as part of reforms to help secure generous pandemic recovery funds from the European Union.
Following debate, in back-to-back confidence votes, the Chamber of Deputies by a wide margin approved two key articles of the bill. The first article passed by a vote of 462 to 55, while the second was approved 458 to 46 with one lawmaker abstaining.
The Chamber of Deputies planned one final vote on the entire package later Tuesday, but that wasn't being tied to a confidence vote. The Senate is expected to start work on the bill in September to complete passage.
Working to help assure the bill would safely move through the lower chamber was Giuseppe Conte, the former premier who is aiming for formal investiture as leader of the populist 5-Star Movement. He told reporters Monday that deputies from the movement, Parliament's largest party, would overcome differing views among their ranks on the reforms to vote in favor.
Draghi had opted to risk the government's survival by putting the bill to a confidence vote. The tactic was aimed at ending squabbling over the proposed reforms by parties in his nearly six-month-old government.
Had the government lost the confidence votes, Draghi would be required to resign. But the risk was a calculated one since all of Parliament’s major parties save one belong to Draghi’s coalition.
The justice system overhaul is a key element in a packet of reforms that Draghi has pledged Italy would enact as a condition of receiving generous European Union pandemic recovery funds.
In an indication of how fractious Italian political parties are, lawmakers have been bickering over the bill's provisions even though their parties' ministers in Draghi's coalition government already approved the justice overhaul during Cabinet meetings.
In a bid to win over some reluctant lawmakers, Draghi's justice minister revised some of the provisions, but some 5-Star lawmakers had still been voicing dissatisfaction. About a dozen of the 5-Stars lawmakers didn't show up for the confidence votes.
For decades, Italy's slow-moving justice system, with its two levels of appeals, has been chastised by the EU and has alienated potential investors, who fear any business dispute that winds up in court would leave them mired in legal battles for years. Many cases drag on for so long that statutes of limitations frequently expire.
The bill's latest version includes special provisions for the next few years on major crimes, to ensure that if a trial at any level lasts past its newly prescribed time, the case could continue to its end. Those crimes include terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and sexual violence.