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Italian PM Giuseppe Conte to offer resignation after defection leaves his coalition short of majority


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte intends to resign after losing his majority, his office has said.

Mr Conte will officially inform his colleagues of his intentions at a cabinet meeting tomorrow. He will then go to the presidential palace to formally hand in his resignation.

As head of state, President Sergio Mattarella could reject his offer or tell him to form another coalition.

The Italian Senate, where Mr Conte has lost his absolute majority. Pic: AP
Image:
The Italian Senate, where Mr Conte has lost his absolute majority. Pic: AP

But with the president’s insistence on strong leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, there is also a chance he will accept the resignation and dissolve parliament, triggering an election two years early.

Mr Conte survived two confidence votes in parliament last week, but then lost his absolute majority in the Senate after centrist ally and former PM Matteo Renzi defected.

This has made it much more difficult for the premier to pass legislation or make decisions on the COVID-19 crisis, which has devastated Italy’s long-suffering economy.

Mr Conte has led a long-bickering centre-left coalition for 16 months.

For the 15 months before that, he headed a government with the populist 5-Star Movement, parliament’s largest party, but in coalition with the right-wing League party of Matteo Salvini.

That first government collapsed when Mr Salvini pulled his support in a failed bid to win the premiership for himself.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella speaks during a ceremony on the tenth anniversary of the death of former Italian President Francesco Cossiga, at the University of Sassari
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Italian President Sergio Mattarella may order Mr Conte to try to form another coalition

What the next Italian government looks like could come down to the party of former PM Silvio Berlusconi.

Just hours before Mr Conte’s office made its announcement, the ex-premier said he was trusting the “political wisdom” of Mr Mattarella to indicate the way out of the crisis.

“The high road is one only,” he said in a statement.

He suggested that was a “new government that would represent substantial unity of the country in a moment of emergency” or an election “to give back the (deciding) word to the Italian” voters.

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Vaccine rollout begins in COVID-hit Bergamo

It comes on the same day that Mr Conte’s government wrote to drug giant Pfizer, demanding it honour Italy’s order of COVID vaccines amid concerns about delays.

Last week Pfizer warned that doses of the vaccine may be slow to arrive while it scales up production of its plant in Belgium.

Italy is threatening to sue the pharmaceutical firm if it does not keep its word on immunisations.



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