Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigns as political crisis escalates

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte holds a press conference on July 7, 2020 in Rome, Italy.

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LONDON — Italy is facing more political turmoil after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on Tuesday, at a time when the country faces a severe health and economic crisis.

Italy has been embroiled in political uncertainty over the past three weeks after a small party, Italia Viva, decided to exit the coalition government led by Conte. The rupture in the executive came after a dispute over EU pandemic recovery funds, and how they are disbursed, which has plunged the nation into instability.

Earlier on Tuesday, Conte, who has no political affiliation, told his ministers that he is resigning. He then handed in his official resignation to President Sergio Mattarella. The president has reportedly asked Conte to remain in a caretaker role while consultations take place over the formation of a new government.

However, the resignation is seen as an attempt to avoid a parliamentary defeat at a Senate vote later this week.

He narrowly survived a vote of confidence last week, but his government has been stripped off a working majority with the departure of Italia Viva — making it difficult to pass any major laws for the remainder of his mandate.

“Having failed in his desperate efforts to broaden his majority, Conte and his government were set to be defeated in a new Senate vote that is currently scheduled for 27 January,” Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the consultancy firm Teneo, said in a note.

He said Conte’s resignation was an attempt “to ensure his own political survival.”

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella will have to decide whether to give Conte the chance to negotiate with lawmakers again, looking for a majority that will allow him to govern.

“Conte’s calculation is that by moving early, and thereby avoiding a humiliating defeat in the Senate later this week, he would increase his chances of securing a mandate from Mattarella to form a new government,” Piccoli said, while warning that “it is currently unclear whether Conte can succeed in such an effort.”

If Italian lawmakers do not reach an agreement over a new coalition government, with or without Conte as prime minister, then voters might have to head to the polls sooner rather than later.

“The bottom line is that Italy will continue to be governed by an executive that is not apt for the tough job ahead, just like it has been the case since the last election,” Piccoli said.

This is a breaking news story and it is being updated.

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