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Italian PM resigns with attack on 'opportunist' Salvini

Italian PM resigns with attack on 'opportunist' Salvini

Giuseppe Conte tells Italian Senate that far-right leader has triggered a political crisis to serve his own interests

Giuseppe Conte has resigned as Italy’s prime minister after blasting Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, as an “opportunist” for triggering a government crisis that could have “serious consequences” for Italy.

Conte said he would formally resign his mandate to president Sergio Mattarella after the close of the debate in the senate on Tuesday.

The outgoing prime minister said that Salvini, deputy prime minister and interior minister, had betrayed Italian citizens after pulling the plug on the party’s tempestuous alliance with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) earlier this month.

Salvini is eager to exploit the League’s growing popularity by bringing about snap elections.

“He is only looking after his own interests and those of his party,” said Conte. “Calling on voters every year is irresponsible,” Conte said, adding that the prospect of Salvini as Italy’s next prime minister was “worrying”.

By resigning, Conte has avoided a no-confidence vote sought by the League.Conte, who is usually mild-mannered, upped the ante against Salvini at the weekend, accusing him of disloyalty and being “obsessed” with closing off Italy’s ports to migrants. The row erupted after Conte refused to sign an order banning the Open Arms migrant rescue ship from docking in the island of Lampedusa.

Salvini was hoping his drastic move on 8 August to withdraw from the coalition would immediately collapse the government and bring about snap elections.

The League leader has since the May European parliamentary elections been seeking to capitalise on his party’s growing popularity: it is polling in first place at about 38%. Salvini’s party is much weaker in the Italian parliament following a third place showing behind M5S and the centre-left Democratic party (PD) in March 2018 elections, when it took 17% of the vote.

His strategy could be thwarted if M5S and the PD formed an alternative majority to guide Italy through the delicate budget period in the autumn.

Salvini has also signalled the possibility of patching things up with M5S in order to avoid the party’s tie-up with the PD. He said on Tuesday his next move would depend on what Conte said in the senate.

“I think Italians have appreciated the way I’ve managed the situation, from Open Arms to the fight against the mafia,” Salvini told Radio 24 before Conte’s resignation. “What sense is a government against Salvini, with all inside? A government needs to be strong in order to get things done. Who would an M5S-PD executive represent?”

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