After weeks of coalition turmoil between the increasingly popular Lega party and their governing partners, the 5-Star Movement, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation on Tuesday afternoon saying, ‘this government ends here”.
Conte’s resignation does not come entirely as a surprise after the ruling coalition has been locked in an increasingly rancorous debate over the future direction of the current government after Lega’s national popularity skyrocketed and the party’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, said he would bring a vote of no-confidence in the Conte-led government.
Conte’s resignation will formally be presented to Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s president, by no later than late Tuesday. Mattarella will then be charged with measuring whether there is sufficient support for a new coalition to be put together or whether the country will need to hold fresh elections.
In his address to Italian lawmakers, Conte – who acts as an independent arbiter between Salvini and the 5-Star Movement’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio – accused the anti-establishment Lega of intentionally scuttling his negotiations with Brussels over Italy’s substantial budget deficit, saying, “the decisions made by Lega force me to interrupt the government.”
Lega and 5-Star formed a governing coalition in June 2018 following a general election that saw the two anti-austerity parties set aside deep ideological differences in favour of a joint political programme that focused on Italy’s most pressing economic and social issues, including the economy and the ongoing flow of illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
In the 14 months since taking office, the two parties – including their respective leaders – have frequently clashed over the government’s approach to contentious negotiations with Brussels over the former’s spending plans, which the EU says severely violate the bloc’s budget rules.
Salvini’s tough line with the European institutions over the debt burden – the Eurozone’s largest after Greece – and the Italian government’s decision to implement strict rules for illegal migrants, has significantly boosted his and Lega’s popularity amongst the voting public.
Responding to Conte’s accusations that Lega held the lion’s share of the blame for the collapse of the coalition, Salvini said he had “no regrets” and “would repeat everything he had done” up to this point as his popular approach to dealing with issues that voters have cited as being priorities had been repeatedly stymied “by too many Mr No’s” in the government – a thinly-veiled reference to the political opposition and his own governing partners in the 5-Star Movement.