The leader of Italy’s ruling League party, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, said on Thursday the governing coalition had broken down and the only way forward was to hold new elections.
The shock announcement follows months of bickering between the right-wing League and its coalition partner, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, and it throws the euro zone’s third-largest economy into an uncertain political future.
Salvini said in a statement that he had told Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that the alliance with 5-Star had collapsed after little more than a year in power and “we should quickly give the choice back to the voters”.
Parliament, which is now in its summer recess, could reconvene next week to carry out the necessary steps, Salvini said, referring to the need for a no-confidence vote in the government and the resignation of the premier.
Tensions came to a head on Wednesday when the two parties voted against each other in parliament over the future of a project for a high-speed train link with France.
5-Star has more parliamentary seats than the League, but Salvini’s party now has twice as much voter support, according to opinion polls, and it has often threatened to try to capitalise on that popularity with new elections.
However, it remains to be seen if things will go as Salvini plans. Pushing the nation back into election mode in August, when Italians are on holiday and parliament is closed for the summer recess, would be unusual and potentially risky.
President Sergio Mattarella is the only person with the power to dissolve parliament and may be unwilling to do so ahead of preparatory work in September for the 2020 budget, which must then be presented to parliament the following month.
Italy has not held an election in the autumn in all the post-war period.