Media reports describe the move as an attempt by a beleaguered leader to form a new coalition government after weeks of political unrest.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte intends to hand in his resignation to the president on Tuesday after a morning cabinet meeting to brief his ministers, according to his office.
The prime minister, in office since June 2018, hopes that President Sergio Mattarella will give him the mandate to form a new government with broader support in parliament, according to media reports.
Tale lost his majority in the upper chamber of the Senate last week, when the centrist Italia Viva party led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi left the country’s coalition government in a dispute over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession.
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that Conte will “inform his ministers of his intention to resign” at a meeting called at 9 am (0800 GMT). “He will then go to see President Sergio Mattarella”, he added.
Mattarella, as head of state, can accept the resignation, possibly asking the prime minister to try to form a stronger coalition that can command a majority in parliament. The president could also reject the offer. But he has often emphasized the need for the nation to have strong leadership as it battles the pandemic, with its devastating effects on the long-stagnant Italian economy.
Conte, lawyer and university professor, has led a long-contested center-left coalition for 16 months. Before that, for 15 months, he led a government still with the populist Five Star movement, the largest party in parliament, but in coalition with the right-wing League party Matteo Salvini. That first government collapsed when Salvini withdrew his support in a failed attempt to become prime minister himself.
Italy has had 66 governments since World War II, and administrations are regularly torn apart and then pieced together in torturous behind-the-scenes discussions that pave the way for cabinet shuffles and policy reviews.
However, once a prime minister resigns, there is no guarantee that a new coalition can form, and there is always a risk that an early election will become the only viable solution.
Previously, MPs from the prime minister’s own coalition warned he would face defeat in parliament this week in a vote on a contested report on the judiciary, which could only be avoided by submitting his resignation .
Conte had so far resisted his resignation for fear of not being renewed. Instead, he tried to lure hesitant senators to his side with vague promises of a new government pact and possible ministerial positions.
However, his efforts failed, and co-ruling Democratic Party (PD) MPs said he had to step aside and open formal negotiations in order to buy time to create a new coalition.
Trying to allay his fears of a political imbroglio, PD MPs said they would back him to lead a new cabinet.
Conte has no direct party affiliation but is close to the largest coalition group, the Five Star Movement.
Shortly before the announcement of Conte’s resignation, Five Star said he would stand by Conte’s side.
“We are standing by Conte’s side,” said a statement from party leaders in both parliamentary chambers, Davide Crippa and Ettore Licheri.
He also made it clear that he did not want any attempt at reconciliation with Renzi.
“It is a problem and cannot be part of the solution,” said Stefano Patuanelli, Minister of Industry and five-star politician.
Renzi said he would return to the coalition on condition that Conte accepts a series of demands.
Seeking to pressure the hesitant, the main ruling parties have warned that an early election – two years ahead of schedule – would be the only way to break the deadlock unless a solution is quickly found .
A recent reform reduced the number of parliamentary seats up for grabs in the next national election by a third, meaning many of the current MPs are unlikely to win re-election regardless of the outcome.
This means there will be no rush to Parliament for a vote, pressuring party leaders to find a compromise.