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Italian lower house approves new government

By Hada Messia and Ben Wedeman, CNN
April 30, 2013 -- Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: In a confidence vote, Italy's lower house confirms the new prime minister's government
  • Enrico Letta was sworn in Sunday, the same day a gunman shot officers outside his office
  • Letta has said unemployment and political reform are top priorities
  • Italy has an 11.6% unemployment rate

Rome (CNN) -- After months of political uncertainty and economic crisis, the lower house of Italy's parliament gave Prime Minister Enrico Letta's new government a vote confidence on Monday.

Letta received support from lawmakers in a 453-153 lower house vote. Lawmakers in the upper house, the Senate, are scheduled to vote on Tuesday.

Letta was sworn in on Sunday -- the same day a gunman shot and wounded two national police officers outside the prime minister's office.

But Letta was being sworn in at the presidential palace a short distance away and was not present at the time of the shooting, state-run news agency ANSA said.

Gunman opens fire in Italy

Italy has been hampered by political uncertainty since February, when elections left none of the candidates with enough support to form a government.

Letta, a center-left politician, has 18 ministers -- two of whom are members of the center-right People of Freedom Party led by three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Nearly all the others are members of Letta's Democratic Party or people close to it.

Letta said last week that the most important priority is tackling the country's 11.6% unemployment rate, which has pushed many young Italians to leave the country.

The second most pressing issue facing Italy is the need for political reform, he said.

Constitutional changes are needed to reduce the number of members of parliament and fix an electoral system that has kept the country locked in a political stalemate it can't afford, he said.

"We need to do this together with the largest participation possible," he said.

He also said the European Union's policy of austerity needs to change.

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