Italy grapples with government crisis

Matteo Salvini

Italy is set for a snap election just days before the Brexit deadline after Matteo Salvini filed a no-confidence motion in his own Government and urged the prime minister to declare the coalition government no longer viable.

The announcement comes a day after Salvini called on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to step down, saying new elections were the "only alternative" to the populist coalition formed by the League and the Five Star Movement (M5S).

Though 5-Star has more parliamentary seats than the League, Salvini's party now has twice as much voter support.

"It is not up to Salvini to summon the houses of parliament, it is not up to the interior minister to decide on the time frames of a political crisis in which many other institutional parties intervene", he said.

On Friday, League senators presented a motion of no-confidence vote in Conte, setting up a vote on Monday.

If an election is announced, it will be the first election to be held in autumn by Italy in all of the post-war period.

"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 League on Thursday complained of deadlock on a variety of issues, including a vote in parliament over the future of an EU-funded high-speed rail link between Turin and the French city of Lyon.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who held several rounds of talks to try to ease the crisis, angrily called on Salvini to justify his move amid speculation about a possible new government combination.

But since then, 5-Star's poll numbers have plummeted, while the League's have soared - buoyed in part by Salvini's hard stance on illegal migration from Africa.

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"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.

To have a new election, President Sergio Mattarella must first verify that the government has lost support in Parliament.

"I already clarified with Salvini during our meetings that this crisis that he triggered will be the moist transparent crisis in the history of the republic", Conte said.

A party in the ruling coalition in Italy submitted on Friday a motion of no-confidence in current government to the Senate, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

However, it was not all sunshine for Salvini in Policoro, one of the southern areas where M5S did well in last year's general election.

Both houses of parliament are now on recess for the holidays and are not due back until September.

Mr Salvini's ex-coalition partner has accused him of betraying the electorate after 14 months of government.

"The most likely outcome is a cabinet reshuffle that will sanction the replacement of some M5S ministers with figures either from the Lega (League) or trusted by the party leadership", Piccoli said.

"This government's only option is to let Italians have their say" by calling elections, it added.

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