By Giada Zampano
ROME (AA) - Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his Italia Viva party pulled their support from Italy’s ruling government, paving the way to a political crisis that risks aggravating the health and economic emergency the country is facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following weeks of increasing tensions with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Renzi announced the resignation of his two ministers and one undersecretary from the government, depriving it of the needed majority in parliament.
“We need to solve problems, not hide them,” Renzi said at a much-awaited press conference on Wednesday, adding that his responsibility was to “provide responses to the country.”
Renzi’s criticism against Conte had focused on his plan for spending more than €200 billion ($243 billion) earmarked by the EU to relaunch Italy’s ailing economy.
But, even though a new version of the economic recovery plan – approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday night – included some of Renzi’s requests, it did not avert the formal split within the coalition.
The two other forces supporting Conte’s government – the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party – had tried, until the last few hours, to negotiate a possible agreement able to avoid a government collapse.
Earlier on Wednesday, Conte met President Sergio Mattarella, the main guarantor of Italy’s political stability, to inform him of the latest developments.
During the meeting, the president called for all the main political parties to end this face of uncertainty as soon as possible.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Conte said he hoped that a government crisis could still be averted, as “Italian citizens won’t understand it.”
He added, however, that “the government can move forward only with the support of all the majority forces,” and that a solid coalition was needed.
Now, the premier has to decide the next step. He can offer his resignation to Mattarella and possibly obtain a new mandate to see if he can win enough votes in parliament to form a new government.
If Conte is not able to secure an alternative majority, Mattarella will hold negotiations with other parties to find a political solution, which may include a wide “national unity” government.
Due to the ongoing health and economic crisis, the president is expected to give party leaders just a few days to strike a compromise.
If no deal is reached, Mattarella will be forced to dissolve parliament and call early elections, which remains the less likely option, as Italy is still fighting a resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak and continuing its massive vaccination campaign.