Italian PM Conte pulls out of Davos trip amid political turmoil

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte holds a news conference at the end of the European Union leaders summit dominated by Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte cancelled a planned trip to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Thursday, a day after the head of the co-governing 5 Star Movement resigned, piling pressure on his divided coalition.

The prime minister’s office gave no detailed reason for the cancellation of the trip but said Conte would be remaining in Rome to work on “urgent issues”.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who has been in government since the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement won 33% of the national vote in the 2018 election, quit on Wednesday following a wave of defections that had threatened the stability of the government.

His resignation had added to growing political uncertainty in Italy ahead of local elections at the weekend where the right-wing opposition League party is hoping for big gains to add weight to its demands for new national elections.

Italian government bonds have remained steady and on Thursday, Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri said the ruling coalition remained strongly committed to government stability and that the 5-Star Movement had assured its support.

“The party’s already said it was committed to the stability of the government. So nothing will change,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Di Maio, who remains in office as foreign minister, has been replaced as caretaker by the head of 5-Star’s internal rules committee Vito Crimi, until a permanent successor is chosen at a party conference in the next few months.

The party has been hit by a series of high profile defections from its parliamentary party, losing more than 30 lawmakers since 2018, amid deep disagreements on policies including its partnership with the centre-left Democratic Party.