Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation Tuesday, blaming his decision to end his 14-month-old populist government on his rebellious and ambitious deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini. The latter sat right next to Conte during the speech, in which the outgoing premier called him an "opportunist" and said the possibility of Salvini replacing him was "worrying," reports the Guardian. Conte told the Senate that the surprise move earlier this month by Salvini's right-wing League party to seek a no-confidence vote against the coalition was forcing him to "interrupt" what he contended was a productive government, per the AP. Conte said he will tender his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella. The move could result in a more moderate government, but it also could give Salvini a chance to lead the nation further to the right, per the Washington Post.
As head of state, Mattarella could ask Conte to stay on and find an alternative majority in Parliament. That's considered an unlikely scenario, however. Mattarella also could conclude that another political leader or a nonpartisan figure could cobble together a viable government. Failing that, Mattarella could immediately dissolve Parliament, more than three years ahead of schedule, as Salvini has been clamoring for. Pulling the plug on Parliament sets the stage for a general election as early as late October, right smack in the middle of delicate budget maneuvers that will be closely monitored in Brussels. Conte, a lawyer with no political experience, is nominally nonpartisan, though he has been allied with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
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