‘This government ends here,’ prime minister tells parliament.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation Tuesday, setting the country on an uncertain political course that could lead to a snap election or a new governing alliance.
Conte’s move preempted a confidence vote that had been expected to take place 12 days after Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party and Italy’s interior minister, called for such a motion.
In an hour-long speech at the Italian Senate on Tuesday afternoon, Conte launched a scathing attack on Salvini, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, who is thought to be vying for his job.
Earlier this month, Salvini pushed for new elections, saying that the government coalition between the hardline anti-immigrant League party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement no longer holds a majority in parliament.
Last week Salvini announced ‘Useless to go ahead with daily quarrels’ it was expected a vote of no confidence would come : Italy’s coalition government on brink of collapse LINK
A government collapse would cause major uncertainty for the European Union; Italy is the third-largest economy in the eurozone and is the EU’s fourth most populous member. Italy has also not yet nominated its candidate for the next European Commission.
Conte said Salvini’s demand for fresh elections — a mere 18 months after the last ones were held — was “irresponsible” and accused him of putting the national interest at risk in order to advance his own personal interests.
With a political crisis in mid-August, elections will probably be held in autumn and then this would mean a provisional government and will make us weak with our EU partners, Conte said.
Conte also slammed Salvini, who was sitting next to him throughout his speech, for what he described as a lack of statesmanship, and said his decision could bring about institutional and financial uncertainty.
“Asking citizens to vote every year is irresponsible,” Conte added.
The outgoing prime minister — who was booed by lawmakers from the League — said Salvini got “distracted from the government’s good work [because] he was too focused looking for an excuse to pull the plug on it.”
In response, Salvini thanked Conte for his resignation and said: “Finally.”
The prime minister’s resignation will not automatically trigger a snap election. It is now up to President Sergio Mattarella to decide on the way forward. Conte will head to see the president Tuesday night after the four-hour Senate debate.
Salvini, speaking from the parliamentary benches rather than the government’s seats, said he was a “free man, unlike many other lawmakers who put the interests of Brussels, Germany and France before those of Italians.”
Hitting back at Conte’s comments, Salvini said he would “do everything all over again” and defended his use of religion in political campaigns, which the prime minister had criticized. “I will always invoke the Virgin Mary to guide me,” he said.
He also reiterated his call for fresh elections, saying: “Those who fear Italians aren’t free men and women,” referring to the 5Stars.
The 5Stars, meanwhile, are reported to be in talks with the center-left Democratic Party to potentially form a new government. Such a tie-up would effectively oust Salvini’s party from government.
If an alternative parliamentary majority becomes a possibility, Mattarella could decide to install a new government without a fresh election. The president could also opt for a caretaker government to pass crucial budget legislation if a majority of lawmakers are willing to back such option.