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Italian Prime Minister Resigns, Accuses Salvini For ‘Irresponsible’ Crisis

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the end of his 14-month government on Tuesday, marking a crescendo in a bitter falling-out with deputy premier and far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

“The ongoing crisis inevitably undermines the action of the government, which ends here,” Conte said in a highly-anticipated Senate speech held in front of an intermittently rowdy audience.

“At the end of the debate I will go to the President of the Republic to officially communicate the end of this government and present to my resignation to him,” he added.

Salvini said two weeks ago that he wanted to end the coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

Italy”s deputy premier and far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

He later back-pedalled, but the M5S said it was too late to patch things up.

The M5S is now expected to try to form an alternative government with the opposition Democratic Party (PD). If this fails, Italy likely faces early elections in October-November or early 2020.

Mattarella is expected to hold consultations with party leaders to see if an alternative government can be formed or if early elections are the only way out of the crisis.

Conte, who was chosen as a neutral figure between the League and M5S, used much of his speech to accuse Salvini of sabotaging the work of the government and acting selfishly.

The League leader has been “irresponsible” and is exposing the country to the risk of “a whirling spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability.”

Conte reproached Salvini, who has been known to hail the Virgin Mary and kiss rosaries during rallies, for “mixing political slogans with religious symbols.”

In response to the premier’s address, Salvini theatrically left the bench reserved for government members and joined League senators in the assembly.

“Thanks and finally! I would do all that I have done again,” he said. “I am sorry that you had to endure me for a year,” he told Conte, referring to his speech as a “sequence of insults.”

According to Barclays Bank analyst Fabio Fois, the stage is set for “one of the most unpredictable government crises in modern Italian history.”

Salvini’s original idea was to force early elections. As the leader of the poll-topping far-right League party, he could have expected to win the ballot and inherit the premiership.

Under Salvini, a fan of authoritarian leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and a former euro-exit campaigner, Italy would veer further to the right and away from the EU mainstream.

The M5S is determined to thwart the League leader’s plans.

It is unclear whether an anti-Salvini government comprising the M5S and PD could work, given the two parties’ historic enmity. It might also play into Salvini’s hands by casting him as a victim of a back-room deal to shut him out of power.

Backers of the M5S-PD option argue that it would be in the national interest to avoid snap elections so as not to derail important ongoing policymaking work.

In particular, Italy needs to to draft a 2020 budget to keep its huge public debt in check and avoid a sharp rise in VAT that will kick in automatically in January if no alternative measures are approved.

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