Italy’s PM Conte quits, government crisis is in president's hands

Mattarella to start consultations with political parties for a new executive

President Sergio Mattarella and PM Giuseppe Conte during the sworn-in ceremony at the Quirinal palace, Rome, 1 June, 2018.

Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte handed his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday, the president's office announced. Conte, who left the presidential palace about 30 minutes after entering, is expected to seek a mandate from the head of state to form a new executive with a broader coalition, ANSA reported.

Matteralla, who as president is the referee of Italian politics, is set to call a round of formal consultations with the parties in parliament and other institutional figures before deciding what to do. The consultations will start on Wednesday. The government no longer had an absolute majority in the Senate after ex-premier Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva (IV) party triggered a crisis in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic by withdrawing its support.

The centre-right opposition is calling for early elections to be held, which opinion polls suggest it would win.

The three other parties in the government coalition, the 5-Star Movement (M5S), the centre-left Democratic party (PD) and the left-wing LeU group, have expressed staunch support for Conte.

The government survived two confidence votes in parliament last week after IV pulled out but it failed to muster an absolute majority in the Upper House.

If Conte does manage to put together a new government it will be his third. His first government, which lasted from June 2018 until August 2019, was backed by the M5S and Matteo Salvini's right-wing League party.

Renzi's IV pulled its support over issues that included differences over the plan on how to spend the over €200bn Italy is set to get from the EU's Covid-19 Recovery Fund. Renzi had blasted the Recovery Plan as lacking ambition, making hand-outs rather than structural investments, and ignoring ministers and parliament in setting up task forces.

IV also complained about the government's failure to take cash from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to invest in the national health system, which has been pushed to the limit by the coronavirus emergency.

There has been speculation that IV could come back into the ruling alliance, even though the M5S and the PD had ruled out reopening the door to Renzi's group.

Another possibility is for a new government to be formed under a different premier, perhaps with the support of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party to make sure the government's Recovery Plan is delivered.


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