Italy's PM quits after coalition allies withdraw support over covid

Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte quits after coalition allies withdraw support over his handling of coronavirus

  • Conte, 56, arrived at the presidential palace to hand in resignation around noon 
  • He is hoping to gain President Sergio Mattarella’s backing to form new cabinet
  • Conte’s coalition government was thrown into chaos earlier this month
  • Junior party led by former PM Matteo Renzi withdrew its support

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte quit today after his coalition allies withdrew their support over his handling of coronavirus.

The 56-year-old leader of the populist 5-Star Movement handed in his resignation at the presidential palace in Rome following a cabinet meeting this morning.

But Conte is hoping to gain President Sergio Mattarella’s support to form a new coalition government that can steer the country through the pandemic and economic crisis.   

Conte’s coalition collapsed earlier this month after a junior liberal party led by former PM Matteo Renzi yanked its support.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gestures as he speaks in the Senate after former PM Matteo Renzi withdrew his support for the coalition last week

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte (unseen) arrives in a car at Quirinale Palace to offer his resignation to President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella in Rome

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte is seen in a car as he enters the Quirinale Palace ahead of a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella

Conte won confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute majority in the Senate, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation.

Mattarella, Italy’s 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 dissolve parliament and call an election two years early.

Former PM and leader of the Viva party Matteo Renzi at the Senate last week

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 party led by Matteo Salvini that lasted 15 months. His second, with the Democrats, lasted 16 months.

Salvini and center-right opposition parties are clamoring for an early election, 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 led by 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, claiming that 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 Monday.

Democratic leader Nicola Zingaretti says an early election is 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.’ 

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