The ex-Italian prime minister has said he is removing his party’s ministers from cabinet, causing further political chaos amid a pandemic.
Italy plunged into a political crisis after former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi withdrew from the ruling coalition, risking government collapse amid a raging coronavirus pandemic.
Renzi announced on Wednesday the resignation of two ministers and a young minister from his Italia Viva party, in a split that deprives Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of his parliamentary majority.
Tensions between the two men had been mounting for weeks following the handling of the COVID-19 epidemic which has claimed more than 80,000 lives in Italy.
They ran up against plans to spend more than 200 billion euros in the European Union’s recovery funds, which Renzi said risked being wasted.
Renzi had long threatened to leave the government because of this issue.
“Being responsible is facing problems, not hiding them,” Renzi, who ruled Italy from 2014 to 2016, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Living Italy [Italia Viva] did not cause the political crisis, ”he told reporters, throwing blame on Conte’s methods for dismantling the government. “We will not allow anyone to have full powers.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Conte visited President Sergio Mattarella, the ultimate arbiter of Italy’s political crises, to find a way out of the impasse.
“Of course, the country would certainly not understand a crisis… people are asking us to continue, in such a complex and difficult situation,” Conte warned.
Conte also made a final appeal to Renzi on Wednesday to remain in the four-party coalition, which took office in August 2019, saying he was convinced that government unity could be restored if there was goodwill on all sides.
“If there is a will, I will work to strengthen the cohesion of the coalition,” Conte said.
Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Renzi said he would still support the government for business aid and measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.
He held out an olive branch to Conte, saying the way the crisis unfolded was “to the prime minister”.
“We are ready for all kinds of discussions,” he said.
One possible scenario would be for the coalition parties to attempt to renegotiate a new pact with Italia Viva, which would almost certainly pave the way for a major cabinet reshuffle, with or without Conte at the helm.
If the coalition fails to agree on a way forward, President Mattarella will almost certainly try to put together a government of national unity to deal with the health emergency, which has killed 80,000 Italians.
If that failed, the only option would be a national vote.
Italia Viva’s 18 senators hold the balance of power in the Senate, although Conte’s majority is solid in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.
Renzi told reporters he believed the elections could be avoided, saying he was sure a majority could be found in parliament to support a new government.