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Salvini calls for snap polls amid deadlock

(China Daily) Updated: 2019-08-10 05:57

MILAN - The leader of Italy's ruling League party, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, declared the governing coalition to be unworkable on Thursday after months of internal bickering and said the only way forward was to hold fresh elections.

Italian 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 on Wednesday after the Senate rejected a move by 5-Star to kill a 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 speedy 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.

In the event of a vote of no-confidence, it would be up to Italy's president to call a new election if he found no way of salvaging the government. Both the League and the 5-Star Movement have said they don't want to see a government formed of nonpolitical technocrats.

The timing of any election is critical, as Italy must submit a budget in the fall - and needs a working majority to work out terms. The EU's third-largest economy barely dodged an EU budget disciplinary process over its rising debt levels this year.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of 5-Star, said his party did not fear elections.

"We are ready, we don't care in the least about occupying government posts and we never have," he said in a statement. He accused Salvini of "taking the country for a ride" and said sooner or later Italians would turn against him for it.


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