ROME (Reuters) - Luigi Di Maio, head of the ruling 5-Star Movement, signaled the imminent demise of Italy’s coalition government on Tuesday by thanking Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for his time in office.
“Whatever happens, I wanted to tell you that it was an honour to work together in this government,” said Di Maio, who serves as deputy prime minister in the cabinet.
Conte is set to address parliament later on Tuesday to defend his record after the 5-Star’s coalition partner, the far-right League, said it would present a motion of no-confidence in the administration.
A parliamentary vote has not yet been scheduled and there is great uncertainty over how the political turmoil will end.
However, Conte is widely expected to resign later in the day, opening the way for President Sergio Mattarella to launch formal consultations with parties to see if a new coalition can be formed. Failing that he will dissolve parliament.
League leader Matteo Salvini has demanded early elections, 3-1/2 years ahead of schedule, confident that his surging popularity in the opinion polls will sweep him into power and push the anti-establishment 5-Star into opposition.
Di Maio said 5-Star lawmakers would stand by Conte, who is a law professor with no political affiliation. “Each of us knows that we are on the right side of history,” Di Maio said in a post on Facebook.
“The League will have to answer for its wrong decision to bring everything down, opening a government crisis in the middle of August ... just to chase the polls,” he added.
Political sources told Reuters on Monday that Italy’s opposition Democratic Party has held “good”, initial contacts with 5-Star over the possibility of forging a new coalition.
Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Crispian Balmer