Salvini pulls support for Italian coalition, calls for snap election

Salvini addresses a news conference at Viminale Palace in Rome

Speaking to reporters the day after announcing that the League's coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement had collapsed, Salvini warned against any maneuvers to block a return to the polls.

Salvini, who leads the far-right, anti-immigrant League party, has nearly doubled his consensus to around 30 percent since June 2018, when he formed a coalition government with the populist Five-Star Movement, which has since halved its support to around 17 percent.

Italy's premier Conte said that Salvini is seeking to cash in on the popularity his League party now enjoys, according to the opinion polls, by calling off the government partnership.

League senators sought a confidence vote in Parliament on Conte's government that the premier appeared destined to lose, without Salvini's support. A snap election could be held as early as October.

"We are all aware of the danger Salvini represents, but I doubt that a government fixing the public finances Salvini messed up would be the solution", he said.

The deeply divided parliamentary chiefs ordered the full upper house Senate to break its summer recess on Tuesday to decide for itself on when to hold the vote, which looks set to trigger the downfall of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The governing two parties have been at odds over a host of policy issues but tensions spiraled Wednesday after the Senate rejected a move by 5-Star to kill a EU-funded high-speed rail link with neighboring France.

Salvini stepped up the pressure on Thursday, saying there was no longer a majority to support a government and calling for new elections.


"Salvini told me that he meant to interrupt this government experience to have elections in order to capitalise on the support the League now enjoys", Conte told journalists in Rome.

Italian Treasury officials are drafting a plan to protect the economy from political paralysis, concerned that the collapse of the ruling coalition could lead to a default hike in sales tax next year, a government source told Reuters.

"Italy can no longer put up with the no's, we need yes's, we need to unblock, to build, to work - enough is enough, we must go to elections", he told reporters after a rally in Pescara, on the Adriatic coast.

The country's premier, Giuseppe Conte, demanded that Salvini "justify" his decision to provoke a political crisis.

At the time of the general election, the left-wing Five Star was the senior partner and largest party in Italy with 32 per cent of the vote, while the strongly pro-border control league took just 17 per cent.

Only President Sergio Mattarella has the power to dissolve parliament and he may be unwilling to do so ahead of preparatory work in September for the 2020 budget, which must be presented to parliament and the European Commission the following month.

The Five Star leader Luigi di Maio insists that reform of parliament has to come before elections.

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