Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte will resign on Tuesday in a tactical move aimed at maximising his chances of leading a new government.
Conte will hold a cabinet meeting at 9am CET before officially handing in his resignation to president Sergio Mattarella, his office announced in a statement.
Conte survived confidence votes in both houses of parliament last week after former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, triggered a political crisis by withdrawing his small Italia Viva party from the ruling coalition. However, the confidence votes left Conte with only a slim majority and he has since failed to strengthen support.
With a weak majority, Conte was expected to be defeated in a vote in the senate on a judicial report on Wednesday.
According to media reports, Conte has been under pressure from the two main coalition parties – the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Democrat party (PD) – to preemptively resign before Wednesday’s vote in order to stand a better chance of receiving a mandate from Mattarella to form a new government backed by a broader coalition.
Such a move could depend on Italia Viva returning to the fold. Conte, as well as politicians from the PD and M5S, insisted last week that they would not work with Renzi again.
“It is currently unclear whether Conte can succeed in such an effort,” Wolfango Piccoli, the co-president of the London-based research company Teneo Holdings, wrote in a note. “The PD and M5S are deeply divided internally on whether to negotiate with Renzi. Both parties are also striving to reduce the power that Conte has accumulated thanks to the pandemic over the last 11 months.”
Conte enjoyed popularity for his handling of the pandemic during the first wave, when the country endured a tough two-month lockdown, but has lost some credibility over the government’s haphazard approach to subsequent restrictions and weak financial response to businesses affected.
The crisis comes as Italy struggles to emerge from the pandemic and recession. Renzi was widely criticised after pulling Italia Viva, which attracts less than 3% in the polls, from the coalition. He did so over disagreements about the handling of the pandemic and a post-Covid-19 economic recovery plan. Italy is set to receive over €200bn (£178bn) from the EU’s recovery fund.
If Conte succeeds in forming a broad coalition, it would be his third administration in less than three years.
“A new coalition, either under Conte or a different prime minister, remains the most likely outcome,” added Piccoli. “However, it is doubtful that a more effective prime minister and government will emerge given the current parliamentary composition and the preferences of the main parties.”