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Explained: Italy’s political crisis — What caused it and what lies ahead

It will now be up to President Sergio Mattarella to try to find a solution to the political crisis. Conte, a lawyer with no political affiliation, was considered a voice of reason in the 5-Star/League coalition and has good relations with Mattarella.

Written by Om Marathe , Edited by Explained Desk | Rome |
Updated: August 21, 2019 8:11:44 pm
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. (AP Photo)

On Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned after being at the helm of affairs for 14 months; he, however, continues to be the caretaker PM.

What led to Conte’s resignation?

In the March 2018 parliamentary elections, an anti-incumbent vote helped the Five Star Movement and the League party, both non-mainstream political groupings, obtain the most number of seats in the country’s legislature.

Conte, who was relatively unknown before the 2018 national elections, became the country’s leader after the Five Star Movement and the League party sought a compromise candidate to lead their coalition.

In June 2018, both groups came together to form the government with Conte as Prime Minister, while making Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, leaders of the Five Star Movement and the League party, respectively, as Deputy Prime Ministers.

Although both Five Star Movement and the League Party ran on an anti-establishment agenda during the elections, serious disagreements emerged between them while in government, and both Deputy Prime Ministers often took potshots publicly at each other on Facebook Live and other platforms.

The situation deteriorated seriously this month when Salvini finally decided to pull the plug on Conte’s government, and the latter tendered his resignation without waiting for a no-confidence motion.

Who is Matteo Salvini?

The leader of the League Party, Salvini, who was also the interior minister in the short-lived government, has now reportedly become significantly more popular than before the elections.

The maverick leader has relentlessly promoted his party’s rhetoric: championing US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin while attacking the European Union. Salvini also has a fiercely anti-immigrant stance, and has called the intake of refugees as “organised migration”.

The League party is now twice as popular than before the elections, and Salvini is expected to lead the next Italian government.

What happens next?

A lot depends on President Sergio Mattarella, who alone has the power to dissolve the parliament. He will be forced to do so only if there is no way for the government to continue.

But if the Conte government has to survive, the Five Star Movement will have to find support from other political groupings in Parliament.

Analysts believe that Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, could reach out to the left-leaning ex-PM Matteo Renzi, despite their past animosity, to save the mandate that Five Star received in 2018. Efforts could also be made to bring Silvio Berlusconi, another former PM, into the coalition, although this seems unlikely.

Most parties currently in Parliament, except the League, fear that an early election would turn the tide against them, thus greatly increasing Salvini’s chances of coming to power.

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