Italy has been plunged into yet another political crisis following the sudden breakdown of the ruling coalition Government. Matteo Renzi, leader of the Italia Viva party, withdrew support for the Government on Wednesday and confirmed the resignation of two ministers from the cabinet.
The shock move stripped a parliamentary majority away from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Mr Renzi condemned the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis – following more than 80,000 Covid-19 deaths – and took aim at the leadership of Mr Conte.
The 56-year-old became leader in June 2018 and is now on the brink of facing a no confidence vote, while other leading figures have called for a general election.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the eurosceptic party Lega Nord, immediately called for an election to be triggered.
The former Deputy Prime Minister took aim at Mr Conte, Mr Renzi, Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Maio and Secretary of the Democratic Party Nicola Zingaretti.
In a scathing post on Twitter, he claimed the Italian people were being “held hostage” and highlighted democratic votes were scheduled to take place all over the world later this year.
He wrote: “Conte, Renzi, Di Maio, Zingaretti. Infinite quarrel, Italians are held hostage. Health, work, school, taxes. Everything stopped.
“Therefore? January elections in Portugal. February, elections in Catalonia. March, elections in the Netherlands, Israel and Bulgaria. April, elections in Albania. May, elections in Scotland, Wales and Cyprus.
Meanwhile, sources close to Mr Conte say he wants to fight on and has no plans to resign.
One government official said: “Conte wants to go to parliament and see if he can’t build an alternative majority there.”
To do so he would need to find the support of around 25 parliamentarians in the 630-seat lower house and up to 18 in the 315-seat Senate.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)