Friday, May 7, 2021

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigns – POLITICO

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ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stepped down Tuesday following disputes within the governing alliance over the post-pandemic economic recovery package.  

Conte handed in his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella following a Cabinet meeting, bringing the 16-month-old government to an end.

His resignation plunges Italy into political uncertainty in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 80,000 people and with the highest annual death toll since World War II.  

Conte, who is not a member of any political party but led an alliance of the center-left Democrats and the populist 5Star Movement, was forced to resign after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pulled his small Italia Viva party from the coalition.

Renzi had criticized Conte’s blueprint for spending Italy’s €200 billion share of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund and his plan to manage it centrally.

Conte had hoped to replace Renzi’s MPs with other lawmakers but failed to find sufficient support. With a looming vote on judicial reforms this week set to bring down the government, he said late Monday that he would resign.

The way ahead is unclear, but it might not be the end of the road for Conte. He can try and come back with a new reshuffled government if he can command a majority in parliament. The decision to reappoint Conte or anoint a new leader to steer Italy through the pandemic and looming economic crisis is now in the hands of President Sergio Mattarella. 

The president will hold consultations starting on Wednesday with party chiefs and the leaders of the parliamentary chambers and groups, before deciding whether to hand a mandate back to Conte or to see if an alternative majority can be found. 

Coalition partners have rallied around Conte as the figure best placed to end the uncertainty.

Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio of the 5Stars said it was “the moment of truth, when we will understand who defends and loves the nation and who instead thinks only of their own advantage.” Conte resigned due to “a senseless government crisis” he wrote on Facebook. “There should be a solid government that makes its voice heard and instead we are struggling with inexplicable uncertainty.” 

Goffredo Bettini, a member of the national leadership of the Democratic Party, said a majority for a pro-European government could be found quickly, centered around Conte. “We must avoid another sickly and abstract political debate leading Italy to new confusion and uncertainty,” he wrote on Facebook. 

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suggested his Forza Italia party could be available for a larger government of national unity. “There is only one road ahead … a new government that represents the substantial unity of the country in a moment of emergency, or to give the decision back to Italians,” he said.

The political ambiguity will add to anxiety in Brussels over possible delays to Italy submitting a final plan for its economic recovery. 

European Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, speaking at an event in Belgium, said: “We in Italy are in a bit of trouble … We need a government capable of guaranteeing that the crisis doesn’t become a social and financial crisis, who knows how to make sure that the recovery plan is of quality and confirms Italy’s pro-European choices. But instead, we are in uncertainty.”

This article has been updated.

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