Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Wednesday that he had withdrawn his party’s ministers from the government and effectively left the ruling coalition without a majority in parliament.
His decision, announced at a press conference, throws Italy into political chaos even as the country struggles to curb the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.
Renzi, the leader of the small Italia Viva party, had long threatened to leave the government, complaining about Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s plans to spend billions of euros promised by the European Union to restart the economy.
After a conference with Italy’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, Conte had expressed hope that Renzi’s support would remain.
Otherwise, a [government] the crisis would not be understood by the country, Conte told reporters.
Mattarella has said that if the current government collapses, he can pull the trigger in the legislature and trigger early elections rather than risking an alternative coalition with fragile support in parliament.
Opinion polls have consistently shown that any quick return to the ballot box would reward center-right forces, including the right-wing league Matteo Salvini and the nationalist brothers in Italy.
Conte’s main partners in the current 16-month-old government are the populist 5-star movement and the center-left Democratic Party. This coalition had replaced another that was also led by lawyer Conte who included Salvini’s Eurosceptic party and the 5 stars.
With Renzi’s support away, Conte was able to try to shake a locker. Alternatively, Mattarella could seek a non-political person to lead a government.
Two names have been dropped by political commentators: Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, and Marta Cartabia, who previously headed Italy’s constitutional court.
Renzi has removed criticism that he is irresponsibly provoking a government crisis in the midst of a pandemic.
“What we do is called POLITICS: study the cards and make proposals,” he tweeted.
The former prime minister is known for his power games. He became Italian Prime Minister in 2014 after maneuvering the ruling Democratic Party to fire Enrico Letta.
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However, Renzi lost a political initiative two years later when he premiered a constitutional referendum that failed and forced him to resign.
He later broke with his other Democrats and formed the Italia Viva party, which, although small, has enough support in the Senate to get his vote counted in the government.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza dismissed tensions that threatened the viability of Conte’s coalition. He said Italy’s goal was “too important to do with useless polemics that hurt everyone, and especially the Italians who, with the vaccine, can and must get out of this long nightmare we live in”.
( Jowharwith REUTERS, AP)