Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, resigned Tuesday after weeks of turmoil in his ruling coalition, leaving Italy rudderless as it battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
He tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, the effective head of state in in Italy. Through his general secretary, who formally announced the resignation, Mattarella invited Conte to stay on in a caretaker capacity pending discussions on what happens next.
Mattarella’s office says the president will begin consultations with party leaders late Wednesday to determine the next steps.
Conte lost his absolute majority in Italy’s Senate, despite winning two votes of confidence in parliament last week.
The defection of a crucial ally, former premier Matteo Renzi, greatly stymied the government’s ability to effectively manage the pandemic and its effect on the country’s already weak economy.
For 15 months, Conte headed the European country in collaboration with its largest party in parliament, the 5-star Movement, and Matteo Salvini’s League party. But bickering led to the withdrawal of Salvini after he failed to win the premiership and that first government collapsed.
President Mattarella has reiterated the need for strong leadership as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and a weak economy.
Italy has the fourth-highest number of infections in Europe, at more than 2.4 million, and the second-highest number of deaths, at more than 85,000, behind Great Britain, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Mattarella could decide to find someone else to form the coalition he needs in parliament. He also has the option to dissolve parliament paving the way for fresh elections two years early, according to the Associated Press.
Another former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who heads a centrist opposition party, could supply crucial support for the next government.
In a statement, Berlusconi called for a “new government that would represent substantial unity of the country in a moment of emergency.” The statement also suggested early elections.
But Conte still enjoys support from the Democratic Party, which is lobbying for a reappointment despite the inability to work with the 5-Star Movement.