Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threatened yesterday to resign, telling his two coalition partners to end their constant feuding or seek new elections.
Conte, an academic with no political support base, called a news conference to make the extraordinary ultimatum after months of bickering inside his year-old coalition of right-wing populists and anti-establishment lawmakers.
“I’m not here just to scrape by or drift,” Conte told reporters at his official residence. “If they do not clearly assume their responsibilities…then I will resign.”
The leaders of both the League and 5-Star Movement, Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio respectively, swiftly issued statements reaffirming their commitment to the government, while denying that they were to blame for the political turmoil.
The two parties have been squabbling over everything from major infrastructure projects and immigration to the historical significance of national holidays and who was to blame for a cruise ship accident in Venice at the weekend.
The feud has intensified since European parliamentary elections last month in which the League won 34 percent of the vote, leap-frogging above 5-Star and fuelling speculation that Salvini could ditch his struggling coalition partner.
Salvini took to Twitter even as Conte was talking, saying he wanted to carry on. “We are ready, we want to move forward and don’t have any time to lose. The League is in,” he tweeted.
Di Maio responded shortly afterwards, saying he was ready for a government meeting as early as Tuesday to discuss issues such as tax cuts dear to the League and the introduction of a minimum wage, which 5-Star wants.