Italian gov't unsurprisingly passes confidence vote in parliament

ROME, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's cabinet won an expected confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday, proving a more solid majority for his reform plans.

The government secured support of the upper house by a vote of 173 to 127, after passing in the lower house with a result of 379 to 212 a few hours ago.

Letta gave a 50-minute speech before the vote in the lower house, interrupted by several rounds of applause as well as hisses from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) led by comedian-turned-activist Beppe Grillo.

"I will fight with all my strength not to let Italy fall back into chaos and I am asking the confidence today to mark a new start for the country," Letta said before the MPs in the lower house.

"Our society is still fragile but I believe that now, after enduring so many sacrifices, Italians are ready for a new beginning," he added.

A plan of reforms for the next 18 months was also laid out, which includes a new electoral law and political and institutional changes aimed at giving political stability and economic growth to the country.

Letta revealed his intention of asking a confidence vote last Wednesday when he met with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, saying the aim was to "design a new majority in Parliament and bind it on a 2014 based on reforms".

The result has been widely considered to be predictable after the New Centre Right (NCD) party, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, split from Berlusconi's centre'right party and vowed to remain aligned with the cabinet in November.