Three ministers have resigned from the Italian government coalition, plunging the government into crisis and threatening the future of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Matteo Renzi, former Italian prime minister and leader of the small Italia Viva party, said three ministers from Italy Viva would resign from Mr Conte’s coalition on Wednesday, after weeks of sustained criticism of the government’s handling of the impact economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. .
The three ministers are Teresa Bellanova, Minister of Agriculture; Elena Bonetti, Minister of the Family; and Ivan Scalfarotto, a young Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“There will be a reason if Italy is the country with the highest death toll and GDP collapse,” Renzi said, accusing the government’s handling of the pandemic of resignations.
“It is much more difficult to leave your post than to cling to the status quo,” he said, arguing that his decision was in the best interest of the country. “The political crisis was not triggered by Italia Viva, it has been going on for months.”
Earlier today, Conte met with Italian President and Head of State Sergio Mattarella, and said a government crisis would now be sanctioned by voters.
“I believe that a crisis would not be understood by the country at a time when there are so many challenges,” he said. He also said before Mr Renzi’s announcement that he had tried to strike a new deal with his small coalition party.
Mr. Conte may now have to seek permission from Mr. Mattarella to attempt to form a new government without lawmakers from Mr. Renzi’s party. To do so, he will have to convince members of other small parties or possibly dissident members of Forza Italia of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
If Mr Conte is unable to muster a new majority, it is possible that Mr Mattarella will pave the way for the formation of a new government without him. Early elections, which only the Italian president has the power to call, are unlikely to take place during the pandemic and will likely only be called after all other options of the Italian parliament have been exhausted.
Italia Viva was formed last year in a split from the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) after Mr Renzi was instrumental in pushing the PD into a coalition with the five-star movement , allowing Mr. Conte to remain Prime Minister after the collapse of the last Italian coalition.
Since then, however, Renzi has become a fierce critic of the prime minister, saying his plans to spend around € 180 billion from the EU’s post-pandemic stimulus fund are inadequate.
Mr. Conte, who was an obscure law professor before he was chosen to lead Italy’s previous government coalition between Five Star and Matteo Salvini’s League in 2018, has no political party of his own. As a result, he might find it difficult to justify staying as prime minister if a new coalition were to be formed.
He now faces a scramble to find enough lawmakers to restore a majority in the Italian upper house he was deprived of when Mr Renzi IV’s senators withdrew their support.
Yet even if he succeeds in doing so, the result could be a weakened government at a time of acute national crisis.
“If Conte finds enough parliamentarians to make up for the exodus of the Renzi-ites, the next question will be, yes Conte is alive, but what kind of life are we talking about?” said Francesco Galietti of the risk consulting firm Policy Sonar. “His government would then be very weak.”
Some coalition MPs have criticized Renzi for orchestrating a government crisis amid a pandemic. “A serious mistake made by a few and which we will all end up paying,” said Andrea Orlando, Deputy Leader of the Democratic Party.