Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday, blaming the collapse of his 14-month-old populist government on his rebellious, anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who triggered a political crisis to try to force early elections.
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, a lawyer with no political experience who was tapped to break a post-election stalemate last year, handed his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella at the presidential palace Tuesday night.
Mattarella, who is head of state, requested that Conte and the rest of the government stay on in a caretaker role, while he works in the coming days to determine whether to call new elections.
Mattarella will first see if another viable coalition can be cobbled together.
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.”
Pressing for elections as soon as possible, Salvini said: “I don’t fear Italians’ judgment.”
In the European Parliament election three months ago in Italy, as well as in current opinion polls, Salvini’s League party has become the No. 1 political force among Italians. His crackdown on migrants, whom the party’s voter base largely blames for crime, appears to be a huge factor in Salvini’s climbing popularity.
Early elections would pull the plug on Parliament 3 and a half years ahead of schedule, perhaps as soon as late October. That would mean political campaigning in the middle of delicate budget maneuvers that will be closely monitored by the European Union.
Italian premier resigns, blames deputy for political crisis