Italian Senator Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, announced that his Italia Viva party is withdrawing its cabinet members from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's coalition government.
Italy's current government is backed by a coalition between the center-left Democratic Party, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and Italia Viva, the party that Renzi founded in late 2019, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
Generally in these situations, the prime minister either resigns or tries to negotiate a new majority, then seeks a confidence vote in parliament, constitutional expert Michele Ainis explained to RAI News 24 public broadcaster.
"It is up to the prime minister to decide what to do now," Renzi said during a nationally televised press conference. "We are ready to back a government with the same majority, but we are also ready to go to the opposition."
If Conte resigns it will be up to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to sound out Italy's political forces in order to form a new government to guide Italy through the end of the current legislature's natural five-year term in March 2023.
Italy's last general election was held in March 2018.
If Mattarella's efforts fail and no new governing coalition can be found, Italian voters will be called to a snap general election.
Renzi cited divergences between his party and the rest of the government over its handling of the pandemic and its 210-billion-euro (about US $255 billion) National Recovery and Resilience Plan, a massive investment project using European Union (EU) funds that was approved by the cabinet in the small hours of Wednesday.
He also said that Minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova, Minister for Family and Equal Opportunities Elena Bonetti will be resigning from their posts.
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