28 Feb 2014

Italy's MPs back young new leader

12:26 pm on 28 February 2014

Italy's young new prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has won a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament, which has backed his government's programme of rapid economic and institutional reform.

Mr Renzi, 39, won by a comfortable margin, with 378 MPs voting in favour to 220 against - though the outcome was no surprise, as his centre-left Democratic Party holds a strong majority in the lower house.

His government had earlier won a confidence vote in the upper house, which was seen as a key test of his power in uniting warring factions in parliament.

Matteo Renzi: 'gigantic' opportunities.

Matteo Renzi: 'gigantic' opportunities. Photo: AFP

Mr Renzi has promised to overhaul the tax system by a "gigantic operation of simplification", cut the high level of unemployment and abolish the senate or upper house as a law-making body.

Addressing the lower house before the vote, he said: "Italy's finest page has yet to be written."

He spoke of the importance of the European Union, calling Italy's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2014 a gigantic opportunity.

"We want a Europe to which Italy does not turn just to follow a line but gives a fundamental contribution, because without Italy there is no Europe," he said.

He also said his first foreign trip as leader would be to Tunisia "and not Brussels or Berlin" because "we hope that the Mediterranean will return to centre-stage".

The new 16-member cabinet is the youngest in modern Italian history.