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Why Italy’s prime minister is standing down

(Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images)

Giuseppe Conte quits after launching blistering attack on coalition partner

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - 6:09am

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that he will tender his resignation.

Conte’s announcement comes after he accused coalition partner Matteo Salvini of being “irresponsible” and attempting to destroy the coalition for “personal and party interests”.

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In a statement described by the BBC as a “blistering attack,” Conte told the Senate: “[Salvini] has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party. His decisions pose serious risks for this country.”

He accused Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, of “serious institutional recklessness” and “disrespect to parliament... liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability”.

Conte’s outburst comes after Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party, had tabled a no-confidence motion against him.

The Guardian said the breaking point for Conte came when Salvini pulled the plug on his right-wing party’s “tempestuous alliance” with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement earlier this month.

Conte became prime minister in June 2018, after the two parties reached a coalition agreement, but the alliance fell apart this summer amid a series of disagreements.

As for Salvini, he has been unrepentant in the face of Conte's denouncement. He told the Senate: “I did not speak ill of some colleagues, but as minister of the interior I delivered a safer Italy in the past year of government.

He rejected the accusation that his is a party of “fascists”, arguing that the League was the only party pushing for a fresh election. “Imagine that,” he said, “the dictatorship that wants the vote of the Italian people.”

He added: “I’ll ask the Madonna for protection for as long as I live. I’m the only humble witness,” he added. “My country matters more to me than the comfy seats [of power]”.

Seemingly pitching for a possible election, he said that were he to become prime minister, he would “focus on Italians, not on Merkel or Macron… I am proud, free and nationalist. Italy will be about children, who have a mum and a dad.”

Conte said he would formally resign his mandate to the president, Sergio Mattarella. The president could call a swift election but he could also decide to invite party leaders to form a new coalition government. Alternatively he could choose to install a technical government.

Salvini is ahead in opinion polls, but analysts say he is unlikely to have enough support to become prime minister.

In any case, says The Independent, elections “may not be inevitable if a new governing coalition can be formed”, amid speculation that the centre-left Democratic Party are considering entering government with the Five Star Movement.

Italy Giuseppe Conte

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