Letta's executive faces confidence test

Position on IMU property tax hotly awaited

Letta's executive faces confidence test

Rome, April 29 - Premier Enrico Letta's left-right government faces the first of the two confidence votes it needs to pass to be able to take power in parliament later on Monday. Letta of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) was sworn in as premier on Sunday after reaching a deal to end Italy's two-month post-election deadlock with Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PdL) and Civic Choice group of the previous premier, Mario Monti. It is an unprecedented, and many would argue unnatural, grand coalition and the government may be short-lived. There has been speculation parts of the division-hit PD hostile to forming a government with the party of Berlusconi, who has been seen as their enemy for two decades, may vote against the new government. These seemed to have subsided somewhat, as many of the potential rebels have promised to back Letta's executive after he presented a relatively young cabinet on Saturday, featuring seven women, including Italy's first black minister. The cabinet is short on PD and PdL heavyweights, which means it has a fresh look that is appealing to many people who feel disillusioned with an established political class that is tainted by scandal and has often proved ineffective. But there are many obstacles for Letta to overcome and it is not yet clear how much harmony has been reached over some major policy differences between the PD and PdL. The situation should be clearer after the speech Letta will give in the House on Monday before the confidence vote there. These thorny issues include Berlusconi's demand that the government scrap the unpopular IMU property tax and return the revenues gained from it in 2012 to respect a key pledge the PdL made in the run-up to the election. The PD had said it would ease IMU - which was instituted among a series of austerity measures under Monti's emergency technocrat government - for the worse-off, but ruled out scrapping the tax, saying this would wreck the budget. "For us, reimbursing the 2012 IMU and scrapping IMU for 2013 are a sine qua non," Berlusconi said. "We told that to Letta, who gave us reassurances about this. Now we'll see what happens". Abolishing IMU and reimbursing the 2012 revenues from it would create a hole of around eight billion euros in this year's budget. After 18:00 on Monday there will be a debate in the House and the confidence vote will start at around 20:00. The outcome is expected to be announced after 21:00. Letta's executive is expected to face another confidence vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

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