August 22, 2019
ROME: Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) amid the collapse of the 14-month-old populist government, raising the possibility of new elections in the fall that could bring to power the anti-migrant Interior minister who engineered Conte’s downfall.
Addressing the Senate, Conte blasted Matteo Salvini for setting in motion a “dizzying spiral of political and financial instability” by essentially pulling the plug on the government.
Salvini’s right-wing League party sought a no-confidence vote against Conte earlier this month, a stunningly bold move for the government’s junior coalition partner.
Conte blamed Salvini for sacrificing the government’s survival in favor of his eagerness to become premier himself.
A lawyer with no political experience who was tapped to break a postelection stalemate last year, Conte struggled to hold together his often ideologically opposed coalition’s forces — Salvini’s right-wing League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
He handed his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella at the presidential palace Tuesday night.
Mattarella, who is head of state, asked Conte and the rest of the government to stay on in a caretaker role. The president could test if there’s enough support for a new government.
Failing that, he might try to build a consensus to back a “neutral” figure to head a government whose main goal would be to lead the country through year’s end, enough time to make painful budget cuts to meet European Union parameters.
If no other path is feasible, Mattarella would have to dissolve Parliament. Elections could then be held as soon as late October — 3 ½ years ahead of schedule.
Salvini, who sat next to Conte during his speech, smirking at times, declared, “I’d do it all again.” He repeatedly kissed a rosary he slipped out of his pocket right after Conte rebuked him for associating “political slogans with religious symbols.”
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