Italy’s government is on the verge of collapse after the 5 Star Movement said it would boycott a crucial confidence vote in parliament, sparking calls for a snap election.
Giuseppe Conte, the former prime minister who leads the populist party, said funds set aside for a cost-of-living support package were insufficient and his senators could not support the bill on Thursday.
“The scenario has changed, we need a different phase,” he told reporters after failing to reach a compromise during talks with outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi earlier on Wednesday.
“We are ready to support the government but not to sign a blank bill. Whoever accuses us of irresponsibility must look in his own garden.
Conte is threatening to pull the 5 Star Movement, which has lost half its support since becoming Italy’s largest party in the 2018 general election, from Draghi’s broad coalition for weeks.
Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank who was brought in to pull Italy out of the coronavirus pandemic and save its economy, said on Tuesday that the government could not survive without the 5 Star Movement while stressing that would not accept ultimatums.
“A government with ultimatums does not work, then it loses its raison d’être,” he added.
Parliamentarians must also vote on sending more support, including military aid, to Ukraine. The 5 Star Movement has long expressed its opposition to sending arms to this war-torn country.
Calls for early elections have been made by coalition and opposition parties should the government collapse.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said “the Italian people should have their say”, while his far-right counterpart Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party was the only to stay out of Draghi’s coalition, called for an election. Brothers of Italy is currently leading in opinion polls.
Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, said earlier on Wednesday: “If the government falls, we vote.”
The next Italian general elections are due to take place next spring. It is unusual for a national vote to take place in the fall.
The 5 Star Movement struggled to revive its fortunes under Conte’s leadership. The party has lost dozens of parliamentarians and its former leader Luigi Di Maio, the current foreign minister, split from the group last month, taking dozens more with him.