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Italian PM Resigns Over COVID Response 01/26 08:14


   ROME (AP) -- Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday after a key 
coalition ally pulled his party's support over Conte's handling of the 
coronavirus pandemic, setting the stage for consultations this week to 
determine if he can form a third government.

   Conte tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who held off 
on any immediate decision other than to ask Conte to keep the government 
running in the near-term, Mattarella's office said. The president will begin 
consulting with leaders of political parties starting Wednesday.

   Conte is hoping to get Mattarella's support to try to form a new coalition 
government that can steer the country as it battles the pandemic and an 
economic recession and creates a spending plan for the 209 billion euros ($254 
billion) Italy is getting in European Union recovery funds.

   Conte's coalition government was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when 
a junior party headed by ex-Premier Matteo Renzi yanked its support. Conte won 
confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute 
majority in the Senate, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation.

   Mattarella, Italy's largely ceremonial head of state, can ask Conte to try 
to form a broader coalition government, appoint a largely technical government 
to steer the country through the pandemic or dissolve parliament and call an 
election two years early.

   The current coalition of the 5-Star Movement, Democratic Party and smaller 
Leu party are all hoping for a third Conte government. Conte's first government 
starting in 2018 was a 5-Star alliance with the right-wing League party led by 
Matteo Salvini that lasted 15 months. His second, with the Democrats, lasted 16 

   Salvini and center-right opposition parties are clamoring for an early 
election, hoping to capitalize on polls prior to the government crisis that 
showed high approval ratings for the League and the right-wing Brothers of 
Italy party led by Giorgia Meloni.

   Salvini has blasted the "palace games and buying and selling of senators" of 
recent days as Conte has tried to find new coalition allies, claiming that 
Conte is incapable of leading Italy through the crisis.

   "Let's use these weeks to give the word back to the people and we'll have 
five years of a serious and legitimate parliament and government not chosen in 
palaces but chosen by Italians," Salvini said Monday.

   Democratic leader Nicola Zingaretti says an early election is the last thing 
the country needs. He tweeted Monday: "With Conte for a new clearly 
European-centric government supported by an ample parliamentary base that will 
guarantee credibility and stability to confront the challenges Italy has ahead."

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