ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte was meeting Tuesday with his cabinet before heading to the presidential palace to offer his resignation after a key coalition ally pulled his party’s support over Conte’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Conte is hoping to get President Sergio Mattarella’s support for forming a new coalition government that can steer the country through the pandemic, economic recession and a spending plan for 209 billion euros in European Union recovery funds.
Conte’s government was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when a junior coalition party headed by ex-Premier Matteo Renzi yanked its support. Conte won confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute majority, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation.
Mattarella, who is the largely ceremonial head of state, can ask Conte to try to form a broader coalition government, appoint a largely technical government to steer the country through the pandemic, or he can dissolve parliament and call elections two years early.
The current coalition of the 5-Star Movement, Democratic Party and smaller Leu party are all hoping for a third Conte government. Conte’s first government starting in 2018 was a 5-Star alliance with the right-wing League of Matteo Salvini that lasted 15 months. His second, with the Democrats, lasted 16 months.
Salvini and centre-right opposition parties are clamouring for early elections, hoping to capitalize on polls prior to the government crisis that showed high approval ratings for the League and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party of Giorgia Meloni.
Salvini has blasted the “palace games and buying and selling of senators” of recent days as Conte has tried to find new coalition allies, saying Conte is incapable of leading Italy through the crisis.
“Let’s use these weeks to give the word back to the people and we’ll have five years of a serious and legitimate parliament and government not chosen in palaces but chosen by Italians,” Salvini said in a video statement Monday.
Democratic leader Nicola Zingaretti says early elections are the last thing the country needs. He tweeted Monday: “With Conte for a new clearly European-centric government supported by an ample parliamentary base, that will guarantee credibility and stability to confront the challenges Italy has ahead.”
Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press