Defiant Salvini Says Time May Be Running Out on Italy Government

Defiant Salvini Says Time May Be Running Out on Italy Government

Conte meets president after deputy’s ultimatum on cabinet. Salvini ramping up pressure with veiled threats of new vote.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with President Sergio Mattarella Thursday, after his deputy, Matteo Salvini, increased pressure on the ruling coalition, reportedly giving the premier a Monday deadline to shake up his cabinet.

Conte and Mattarella, who alone has the power to dissolve parliament, met for about an hour, news agency Ansa reported. Conte then walked back to his office near the parliament. The meeting was “informative,” and the two did not speak of a government crisis or a Conte resignation, Ansa said.

Salvini, who heads the League party, has been warning that if his coalition partners in the Five Star Movement don’t yield to his demands he’ll pull the plug on the government.

“I’m not one for half measures, either we can do things fully and well or I am not one who clings on to his seat,” Salvini said on Wednesday. “Something has broken down in recent months,” he added, referring to the coalition.

Salvini, Italy’s de facto leader, has stepped up his rhetoric in recent days, letting Five Star know he’s ready to pull the plug on the government and try to force early elections if he doesn’t get his way. Salvini has called for deep tax cuts and investments, even if they fall afoul of European Union rules.

His supporters have been pushing him for months to ditch the coalition as the League’s poll numbers approach 40%, a result that could allow the party to govern on its own.

Beach Campaign

The deputy premier on Wednesday canceled rallies at beaches south of Rome to remain in parliament with advisers and colleagues. In the evening he had a long meeting with Conte and has since called off events scheduled for Thursday.

Salvini has given Conte until Monday to accede to his demands for changes in the cabinet, Corriere della Sera reported. The League leader is calling for the immediate ouster of Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli. He’s also reported to be seeking to replace other cabinet members, notably Finance Minister Giovanni Tria, according to the report.

In a Wednesday night speech, Salvini thanked Conte and fellow Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio, who heads Five Star and with whom he has quarreled incessantly since the government was formed over a year ago. But he denied he is merely seeking more cabinet posts and added that what happens next is “in the hands of the Italian people.”

“Like in marriage, if you spend more time quarreling and trading insults rather than making love, it’s better to look each other in the eyes and take an adult decision,” Salvini said, adding that decisions could be made “in the coming hours.”

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