Former PM Matteo Renzi takes back his support from the ruling coalition, paving way for political crisis amid the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.

Former premier Matteo Renzi announced the departure of the ministers from his Italia Viva party, in a long-threatened move that now risks PM Conte's majority in parliament.
Former premier Matteo Renzi announced the departure of the ministers from his Italia Viva party, in a long-threatened move that now risks PM Conte's majority in parliament. (Reuters)

Italy's former premier Matteo Renzi has pulled his party's ministers from the cabinet, effectively leaving the ruling coalition without a majority in parliament.

His decision on Wednesday announced at a news conference, throws Italy into political chaos even as the country is struggling to contain the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.

Renzi, who heads the tiny Italia Viva party, had long threatened to quit the government, complaining about Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's plans over how to spend billions of euros promised by the European Union to relaunch the economy.

Renzi in announcing that the farm and family ministers and Cabinet undersecretary were bolting from the 16-month-old centre-left government, said he had enough of Conte's frequent governing through decrees instead of turning to parliament.

"Italy Alive didn't provoke the political crisis," Renzi told reporters, putting the blame for the government's unravelling on Conte's methods.

"We won't allow anyone to have full powers," said Renzi, who had governed Italy from 2014-2016.

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Olive branch

Renzi has in recent weeks railed against Conte's handling of the pandemic, in particular his plans to spend more than 200 billion euros in EU post-virus recovery funds.

However, Renzi said he would continue to support the government on measures to help businesses and restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has claimed more than 80,000 lives in Italy.

And he held out an olive branch to Conte, telling a news conference in Rome that how the crisis panned out was "up to the prime minister."

"We are ready for all kinds of discussions," he said.

It was unclear if Conte would try to negotiate further with Renzi or soon tender his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who for weeks has been insisting the government concentrate on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has worsened years of Italy's economic stagnation.

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Early elections

A leading member of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), a member of the ruling coalition, was quick to condemn the move. 

Former minister Andrea Orlando said it was "a serious mistake done by a few which we will all pay for."

Without Italia Viva's 18 senators, Conte would need new friends in the Senate, although his majority is large enough in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.

If Conte or someone who could replace him can't muster enough support in parliament, Mattarella could dissolve parliament, paving the way for early elections that, if opinion surveys hold, could bring an alliance of right-wing and far-right nationalist forces to power.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies