Italy’s political leaders will meet in Rome today to discuss a date for a no-confidence vote in the government.
The right-wing Northern League governs the country in a coalition with the populist Five Star Movement (M5S). Interior Minister and League leader Matteo Salvini called for the vote against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte—who belongs to neither party but has close ties to M5S—after M5S opposed an infrastructure bill backed by the League.
Premier Giuseppe Conte said that Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini is seeking to cash in on the popularity his League party currently enjoys, according to the opinion polls, by pulling the plug on the government and calling for early elections. “Salvini told me that he intended to interrupt this government experience to have elections in order to capitalise on the support the League currently enjoys,” Conte told a press conference.
Conte announced that he would present himself before parliament, rather than resigning, saying it should be Lower House and the Senate that decides whether he still has their confidence, not just Salvini. The premier also said it is not up to Salvini to say when the government collapses and new elections are held. “I have read the the interior minister wants the parliamentarians to return to work at once,” Conte said.
In recent weeks, the League and M5S have clashed over a range of issues, from tax cuts to supporting Ursula von der Leyen as President-elect of the European Commission.
Salvini appears to be aiming to bring down his own government coalition in order to trigger snap elections that could lead to him emerging as premier. The move would be gamble if executed, but it may pay off for Salvini. According to the latest opinion polls, the League has nearly twice as much voter support as M5S.
However, if elections are called, they will be held in August, a month widely considered by Italians to be a vacation month. Voter turnout in favour of Salvini may be low given this seasonal factor.
Salvini said Friday that he has not decided whether his League party will run alone or allied with other groups in eventual early elections. “Nothing has been decided about whether we’ll run alone,” he said. “We have an idea about Italy over the next five years that we will put to those who agree with it”.