Italian prime minister resigns after hard-hitting speech against Matteo Salvini

Italy is thrust into a political crisis after the coalition government between the Lega Nord and the Movimento Cinque Stella is no more

Giuseppe Conte (L) is submitting his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella (File Photo: BBC)
Giuseppe Conte (L) is submitting his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella (File Photo: BBC)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resigned after a hard-hitting speech in which he accused his deputy prime minister of putting personal interests before the country’s.

It will now be up to President Sergio Mattarella to hold consultations with political leaders to explore the possibility of a new government being formed.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord is unlikely to be part of a new government coalition.

Conte expressed pre-occupation over Salvini’s “authoritarian” political culture and“for seeking full powers while inciting the crowds”.

Conte also condemned Salvini for using religious symbols like the rosary for political propaganda purposes.

In his reply, Salvini insisted that Italy should go to the polls in autumn lambasting the prospect of a back room deal between his government coalition partner M5S and the centre-left democrats.

He also defended his choice of closing Italian ports to rescued migrants, insisting he had delivered a more secure Italy.

It was Salvini who triggered the crisis 13 days ago by calling for an election in a bid to secure “full powers’ for his party.

This may prove a gamble for Salvini who may well end in the opposition in a parliament where the M5S hold a majority.

READ ALSO: Italy’s headlong rush to elections and Salvini’s roadmap to ‘full powers’

Short of calling an election as demanded by Salvini, President Mattarella may opt either for a short term institutional government entrusted with approving a budget before taking the country to the polls next year or for a more durable government based on a political pact between the MS5 and the Democrats.

The Italian constitution gives the president full powers to find an alternative majority whenever a government resigns. But this may play in the hands of Salvini who is likely to question the democratic legitimacy of a government which includes the centre left. 

Salvini himself had contested the 2017 election as part of a centre right alliance which he ditched to form a government with the M5S, which emerged as the largest party in parliament.

Yet, in subsequent months Salvini consolidated his position, with the Lega becoming the largest party in European elections in May.