Italian Conte scrambles to keep power with 10 Europhile senators – Salvini warns it’s over

Coronavirus: Salvini slams EU over Italy’s financial struggles

A group of 10 cross-party Italian senators joined forces on Tuesday evening to back Giuseppe Conte’s third Italian government in the making. The caretaker Prime Minister resigned on Tuesday morning after losing his parliamentary majority last week.

Mr Conte was asked by the head of state Sergio Mattarella to form a new government and find a new majority in both houses of the Italian Parliament.

The new group that came to his rescue in the Senate was named “The Europhiles” in a clear message to Brussels the new administration will be closely aligned to the EU project in the delivery of the coronavirus Recovery Fund.

Mr Conte, however, is far from being able to claim victory as he will still need to convince MPs in the lower house to join his coalition and form an absolute majority.

Right-wing opposition leaders Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni dismissed the move and continued to push for Italians to return to the polls as soon as possible.

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Speaking to La7’s Di Martedì on Tuesday night, Mr Salvini said: “The new group of Europhiles?

“These are not ‘responsible’ but are accomplices and attached to the chair.

“This little play must finish as soon as possible.

“Furlough payments have not arrived and schools must reopen.”

Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI) party would like to see Italy’s political crisis resolved with a broad government of national unity, Vice President Antonio Tajani told reporters on Tuesday.

But he also stressed that Berlusconi’s party was not about to leave the centre-right alliance in order to bring this about.

The former European Parliament President said: “The crisis is open.

“We trust the wisdom of the head of state.

“If all the best get together to face the emergency with a serious, stable government of national unity, Forza Italia is in agreement.

“The other way to have a serious government is via the instrument of elections.

“There is no chance of Forza Italia leaving the centre-right”.

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The deepening political crisis is playing out against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 86,000 Italians — the second-highest death toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth highest in the world.

Mr Conte lost his absolute majority in the upper house Senate last week when a junior partner, the Italia Viva party headed by former premier Matteo Renzi, quit in a row over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and economic recession.

Efforts to lure centrist and independent senators into the coalition to fill the hole left by Renzi have met little success, leaving Conte no choice but to resign and open a formal government crisis that will give him more time to find a deal.

Hours after resigning Conte made a new impassioned appeal for support, posting on Facebook that he wanted to build a government of “national rescue” with a broader and more secure majority.

“It is time for the voices to emerge in parliament of those who have in their hearts the future of the republic,” he said.

President Mattarella has given Mr Conte some time by delaying his formal consultations with the main parties until Thursday and Friday, after which he will decide on the best way out of the political quagmire.

If he thinks the caretaker prime minister can secure the necessary backing to pull together a new administration, the president will likely give him a few days more days to try to finalise a deal and draw up a new cabinet.

Financial markets edged higher despite the latest political tumult, with investors hopeful that Mr Conte might eventually emerge with a more stable government.

Until now the main coalition parties — the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and centre-left Democratic Party (PD) — have backed Conte’s efforts to stay in power.

“Conte is the essential element and we need to broaden and relaunch the government’s action,” Debora Serracchiani, the deputy head of the PD, told state broadcaster RAI.

However, if Mr Conte cannot find new allies, President Mattarella will have to come up with an alternative candidate deemed capable of piecing together a workable coalition.

If all else fails, the president will have to call an election, two years ahead of schedule, although political analysts say this is the least likely scenario.

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