Italian prime minister resigns, blames Matteo Salvini for the crisis

Salvini is eager for fresh elections given his far-right wing party’s strong showing in the European parliament polls and significant lead in surveys

August 21, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Giuseppe Conte
Giuseppe Conte had resigned after far-right leader Matteo Salvini broke away from the ruling coalition. (Photo: EP)

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation on August 20, Tuesday, bringing an end to the coalition government that has been in power since June 1, 2018. Conte, an independent politician supported by the Five Star Movement, announced his resignation in the parliament when his deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, from the far-right The League party, pushed a no-confidence motion in the Senate on August 13.

A majority of the Senators from the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party in the opposition opposed the motion and called for a debate on Tuesday, in which prime minister Conte announced his resignation. The no-confidence motion was withdrawn by Salvini today, after his party members pressured him, which has done little so far to mend the broken coalition.

According to reports, Conte accused Salvini of destabilizing the government and breaking the coalition by placing his personal interests above national interests. Salvini has been calling for snap elections as opinion polls currently place the League ahead of other parties. The League, which was the junior party in the coalition, won 28 seats in the recent European Parliament elections. On the other hand, the Five Star Movement got only 14 seats. Salvini has been at the forefront of a racist, anti-immigrant and hyper-nationalistic campaign which has polarized the country.

Following Conte’s announcement for resignation, Italian president Sergio Mattarella has to decide whether to call an election or allow various parties to form a new coalition. There is still a distant possibility that the government can continue with the support of the social democratic Democratic Party (PD). The possibility of a coalition between The League, the anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT Brothers of Italy, and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia is also being discussed. There are also reports that many of The League’s deputies are pressuring Salvini to continue in the coalition.

As of now, in the Italian Parliament, which comprises of a 630-seat Chamber of Deputies and a 315- seat Senate, the Five Star Movement has 216 Deputies and 106 Senators while the League has 123 Deputies and 58 Senators. The PD has 112 Deputies and 53 Senators, and the Forza Italia has 104 Deputies and 61 Senators.

After the 2018 general elections in March, it took 88 days of negotiations before the government was formed with Conte as prime minister and Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement as vice-premiers. From the very beginning, the coalition was marked by deep differences between the two parties. However, The League has been able to consolidate its position and support base over the months even as the Five Star Movement’s base has grown increasingly disenchanted with the party.