Conte quits as Italy's PM in tactical bid to build new majority

ROME – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte submitted his resignation to the head of state on Tuesday in hopes of being given the opportunity to form a new coalition and rebuild his parliamentary majority.

The deepening political crisis plays out against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, in which more than 85,000 Italians were killed – the second highest death toll in Europe after the UK and the sixth highest in the world.

Conte lost his absolute majority in the House of Lords Senate last week when a junior partner, the Italia Viva party, led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, retired over the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and economic recession.

Efforts to lure centrist and independent senators into the coalition to fill the hole left by Renzi have been unsuccessful, leaving Conte with no choice but to resign and open a formal government crisis that gives him more time to unite Find deal.

President Sergio Mattarella will begin a rapid round of consultations with party leaders on Wednesday afternoon to test the political waters, his office said.

If he believes Conte can get the support he needs to put a new government together, the president will likely give him a few days to try to strike a deal and create a new cabinet.

So far, the main coalition parties – the anti-establishment 5-star movement and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) – have backed Conte’s efforts to stay in power.

“Conte is the essential element and we have to expand and restart the government’s measures,” Debora Serracchiani, deputy head of the PD, told the state broadcaster RAI.

However, if Conte can’t find new allies, Mattarella will have to find an alternative candidate who is able to put together a workable coalition.

If all else fails, the president will have to hold an election two years ahead of the scheduled date, although political analysts say that is the least likely scenario.

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Italy’s coronavirus crisis has sparked the worst recession since World War II, and the government has been scrambling to work out a plan on how best to use around 200 billion euros ($ 240 billion) in EU funding to help the economy recover can be issued.

Renzi accused Conte of lacking a strategic vision, saying he was risking the unprecedented E.U. to waste. Bonanza for handouts rather than long term investments.

Opinion polls show Conte is Italy’s most popular leader with a 56 percent approval rating, nearly 20 points above the closest politician. This comes from a poll published daily by Corriere della Sera on Saturday.

If he is ousted, political sources have suggested that he could try to capitalize on his popularity by starting his own party or by taking over the 5-star business.

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