Monday, May 10, 2021

Italian PM Conte to resign – POLITICO

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ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday that he would resign, plunging the country into fresh political turmoil. 

By stepping down, Conte will avoid a humiliating defeat in parliament in a vote on judicial reforms later this week. 

He narrowly won the backing of parliament in a ballot last week after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, leader of the small Italia Viva party, withdrew his ministers from the ruling coalition, forcing a confidence vote. Renzi had criticized Conte over the handling of the coronavirus crisis and management of the post-pandemic economic recovery plan. 

Conte had hoped to gather sufficient support among lawmakers from centrist parties to replace Renzi’s MPs, but the numbers failed to materialize, and the vote this week was set to bring down the government. 

The prime minister’s office said Conte would inform ministers of his decision at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, before offering his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella.  

Mattarella could then offer Conte another mandate to try to form a new reshuffled government, backed by the same or different parties — or possibly a wide-ranging government of national unity. Or he could hold consultations to see if another figure could command a majority in parliament. As a last resort, the president could call early elections.

The remaining coalition partners swiftly issued statements of support for Conte, who is not a member of any political party.

Vito Crimi, leader of the 5Star Movement, said that the party would remain “by Conte’s side in this very difficult time for the country. We are the supporting wall of this legislature and will act responsibly, with the interests of the people at heart.”

Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti tweeted: “With Conte for a new government that is clearly pro-European and supported by a broad parliamentary base, which guarantees credibility and stability to face the great challenges that Italy faces.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza, of the leftist Freedom and Equality Party, said Conte remained “the right person to steer the country at a difficult time.”

Opposition leaders, however, called for snap elections.

Matteo Salvini of the far-right League demanded elections that would “give the say back to the people and, for five years, a serious and legitimate government chosen by the Italians.” He added: “This is not a government that can lead Italy out of this disaster.”

In recent weeks, the coalition partners have been increasingly at odds over the plans for the management of the more than €200 billion in EU recovery funds earmarked for Italy.

Renzi had complained that Conte did not initially consult with coalition partners on the recovery plan and demanded that Italy make use of funds from the European Stability Mechanism to boost the capacity of its health care service — a red line for the 5Star Movement, the largest party in the coalition, which is fiercely opposed to the ESM. 

This article has been updated.

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