Italy Faces Political Crisis Amid Surges Of COVID-19 Cases
Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi (Source: Commons Wikimedia)

JAKARTA - Former Italian Prime Minister (PM) Matteo Renzi pulled his party out of government on Wednesday, January 12, 2020. The move was to strip the ruling coalition in the parliamentary majority and spark political chaos even as the country battles the resurgence of COVID-19.

Quoting Reuters on Thursday, January 14, Renzi criticized the leadership style of Italian PM Giuseppe Conte. He said Giuseppe was trying to build up power, but Renzi said there was a possibility of rejoining the cabinet if his demands for policy changes and greater accountability were followed up.

"Taking responsibility is about dealing with problems, not hiding them," said Renzi, who critics accuse of playing politics in an attempt to revive the fortunes of his small Italian party Viva, which failed in the election.

His coalition partners say Renzi's decision will cost the country, which is mired in the worst recession since World War Two as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has killed more than 80 thousand Italians. The second highest number of casualties in Europe.

Conte made the final call for Renzi to stay in the four-party coalition, which took office in August 2019. Conte said he believed unity could be restored if there was goodwill from all parties.

It was not immediately clear what PM Conte or his remaining allies, the 5-Star Movement, the Democrat Party and the LEU Party would do. One possible scenario is that a coalition party tries to renegotiate a new pact with Italia Viva, which will almost certainly pave the way for a major cabinet reshuffle, with or without Conte at the helm.

“Can a new Conte government be created? We have no veto on anyone, or prejudice, nor do we dare to tell the prime minister what to do, "Renzi said at a press conference where he announced his decision to step down.

Election early

If the coalition cannot agree on a way forward, Italian President Sergio Mattarella will almost certainly try to form a national unity government to deal with the health emergency. If that still fails, the only option is national elections.

The opposition bloc, led by league right wing Matteo Salvini issued a statement calling for Conte to step down. He also said the best thing to guarantee a stable government would be elections, about two years ahead of schedule.

Salvini briefly joined the 5-Star Movement after inconclusive elections in 2018 and formed a government led by Conte. Salvini resigned a year later, hoping to force an early election.

But Salvini was defeated by Renzi, who unexpectedly supported the formation of an alternative coalition. Renzi had a bad relationship with Conte from the start and often attacked his decision making.

His latest complaint focuses on Conte's plans on how to spend the billions of euros promised by the European Union to relaunch a hit economy. Renzi raised another policy complaint and insisted Italy should apply for a loan from the eurozone bailout fund, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), to help its health services. Meanwhile the 5-Star Movement opposed this idea.

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