Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte yesterday appeared in no hurry to resolve a political crisis triggered by a junior coalition partner, which has abandoned the Cabinet in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Italia Viva, a small party headed by former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, walked out of the government on Wednesday evening, presenting a long list of grievances over the way Conte had handled the health emergency and accusing him of hoarding power.
However, Renzi’s group has left open the door to returning to the fold so long as a new policy pact could be worked out.
“It isn’t a question of who [is in charge], but of what is done,” Elena Bonetti, one of Italia Viva’s two outgoing ministers, told Radio 24.
Renzi’s decision sparked a government crisis which could last days or even weeks, and has no clear solution in sight.
Conte himself has said nothing in public since Renzi quit, and has given no indication that he was ready to hand in his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
One of the options open to him would be to try to cobble together a group of so-called “responsible” parliamentarians from opposition ranks who would promise to prop up his government in the absence of Italia Viva.
“Conte wants to go to parliament and see if he can’t build an alternative majority there,” said a government official, who declined to be named.
To do this, he would need to find about 25 lawmakers in the 630-seat lower house and up to 18 in the 315-seat Senate.
However, such a majority would be highly fragile and make it hard to enact meaningful reform.
Failing that he will need to swallow his pride and look to forge a new alliance with Renzi, one of Italy’s most ruthless politicians whose party is floundering in the polls.
Snap elections, although a risk, appear to be only a remote possibility for now.
Mattarella is said to be reluctant to see the country vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is killing hundreds of people each day and has plunged the nation into its worst recession since World War II.
“A snap vote, the worst scenario for investors, remains unlikely at this stage,” said Lorenzo Pregliasco, a political analyst at YouTrend.
One of Renzi’s main complaints about Conte is the way he has handled plans to spend up to 200 billion euros (US$243 billion) of EU funds meant to help rebuild the country, accusing him of trying to bypass parliament in the decisionmaking.
Renzi has also said Conte must accept up to 36 billion euros offered by the EU in a separate bailout fund for the health system.
No other EU country has tapped this mechanism amid fears the cash will come with unwelcome conditions.
Italian Minister of European Affairs Vincenzo Amendola, a member of the coalition center-left Democratic Party, said that Italy risked missing out on funds unless it gets its act together.
“All my European colleagues are very worried,” he told Sky Italia TV.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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