Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi announced on Tuesday that he was quitting the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) to form a new one. The new parliamentary group will continue to support the government in parliament.

Renzi is expected to carry with him approximately 30 MPs, the public news agency ANSA reports.  Democratic Party (PD) leader Nicola Zingaretti called the breakaway a sad mistake while prime minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his confusion, especially as regards to the timing.

The former prime minister told La Repubblica that he sought to form a party that is less factious and has a more strategic vision but the new party would focus on combating Lega rather than seeking to carve out a piece of the centre-left.

Renzi was key in forging a new political alliance between PD and the Five Star Movement (MS5), allowing Conte to form a second cabinet.