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 the 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.
The power to dissolve parliament and call new elections rests with Mattarella, who could also seek the formation of a new parliamentary majority or install a technical government. The timing of Salvini’s manoeuvre is sensitive as Italy must present its draft budget for 2020 by the end of September.
Conte said Salvini’s choices in recent weeks revealed “poor institutional sensitivity” and “a serious lack of constitutional culture”. He also criticised the minister’s use of religious symbols in his constant campaigning across Italy, describing it is as “offensive to the faithful”.