Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte will resign on Tuesday in an escalation of the political instability that has enveloped the country as it battles both the Covid-19 pandemic and a brutal recession.
Mr Conte will see his ministers on Tuesday morning to inform them of his decision, and then meet Italian president Sergio Mattarella to offer his resignation, according to a government spokesman.
He is then expected to attempt to form a new government within the existing parliament after his current coalition was stripped of its majority by the resignation of a junior party earlier this month.
However as Mr Conte lacks his own political party, having been a political unknown before being unexpectedly named prime minister in 2018, he will have to depend on the continuing support of the leaders of the two largest parties in his current coalition — the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party.
Immediately after Mr Conte’s plans to resign were confirmed, Nicola Zingaretti, leader of the Democratic Party, reiterated his backing for the prime minister. “A new government with Conte that is clearly pro-European and supported by a broad parliamentary base,” he wrote on Twitter.
Last week Mr Conte narrowly survived a vote of confidence in Italy’s Senate but his coalition government was left without a majority, meaning it would struggle to pass any meaningful legislation at a time of national crisis.
Mr Conte’s decision to resign comes ahead of a vote in the upper house this Wednesday that he risked losing, which would have forced his resignation.
That vote was one prompted by the resignation of former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s small Italia Viva party from Mr Conte’s coalition, stripping it of its majority in the Italian Senate.
Mr Renzi has blasted Mr Conte’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and said he was quitting the government to force a reset of how the country’s recovery is being managed.
If Mr Conte is unable after his resignation to form a new majority then Mr Mattarella will ask the leaders of Italy’s political parties to find a solution without him, meaning Italy would have a new prime minister as it battles the pandemic.
Another possibility would be for a broader coalition of “national unity” to be formed between the current coalition parties and the rightwing opposition, which could be led by a technocratic prime minister with a mandate to steer Italy out of the current crisis.
New general elections, which only the Italian president has the power to call, are considered unlikely at this stage due to the difficulty of holding them during the pandemic.