Italy faced a government crisis Thursday after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party called for a new election, saying his party’s coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement had collapsed over policy differences.
Premier Giuseppe Conte said he would convene Parliament, as requested by Salvini to seek a confidence vote, but showed his anger over what he called Salvini’s move to “abruptly interrupt the actions of the government.” He urged Salvini to explain himself to voters.
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 an EU-funded high-speed rail link with neighboring France. The big infrastructure project — known in Italy as TAV — is backed by the League and seeks to improve rail links across several European nations.
As tones hardened, Salvini met with Conte on Thursday. After the meeting, Salvini issued a statement saying the TAV vote clearly showed that the ruling coalition had collapsed and called for a snap election.
“Let’s go immediately to the Parliament and verify that there is no longer a majority, as was evident in the vote on the TAV, and quickly return the word to voters,” Salvini said.
If the government should lose a confidence vote, that could set the stage for a new election.
In remarks to journalists late Thursday, Conte chastised Salvini for urging lawmakers to interrupt their vacations for a speedy confidence vote. “It is not for the interior minister to decide the timing of a political crisis in which other institutional actors are involved,” the premier said.
Conte said he would be in touch with the speakers of both houses to work out when to convene Parliament.