Matteo Salvini is the Federal Secretary of the Northern League party. MAURIZIO BRAMBATT/PA Images

Italy's Matteo Salvini calls for snap elections amid coalition crisis

Salvini has clashed with his fellow Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

ITALY’S FAR-RIGHT Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has pulled his support for Italy’s governing coalition and called for snap elections.

Salvini, whose hardline League Party has already called for snap polls, has clashed with his fellow Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) party over a range of policies.

Salvini has now stepped up the pressure, saying there was no longer a majority to support a government and calling for new elections.

“Let’s go straight to parliament to say there is no longer a majority… and quickly go back to the voters,” Salvini said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who had held separate talks with Salvini and the country’s President Sergio Mattarella as the crisis deepened, said in a statement that the interior minister doesn’t summon parliament and “it’s not up to him to dictate the steps of the political crisis.”

Conte called on Salvini “to explain to the country and justify to the electorate, who believed in the possibility of change, the reasons that brought him to abruptly interrupt” the activities of government.  

Both houses of parliament are currently on recess for the holidays and are not due back until September.

Tensions between the 14-month-old coalition’s populist leaders have peaked in recent days, with the row centred on the financing of a multi-billion-euro high-speed train line.

‘Shifting political sands’

An early election may benefit Salvini, with recent opinion polls putting his League party ahead, leaving open the possibility that it could govern in alliance with another, smaller far-right party, Fratelli d’Italia.

That reflects the inversion in the popularity of the coalition partners, which came to power in June 2018 after an election that saw M5S take 32% of the vote, while the League scored 17%.

In the European election in May this year, however, the League took the most votes in Italy with 34%. M5S received around 17%.

The partnership, which has been rocked by ongoing tensions, has appeared to sour further in recent weeks.

Italian media has reported that Salvini, in earlier talks with Conte, set conditions for staying in the coalition – including the resignation of the transport, defence and economy ministers, who have resisted his projects and policies.

“The League and M5S have been diverging in their vision for too long, on matters that are fundamental for the country,” the League said in its statement yesterday.

“This government’s only option is to let Italians have their say” by calling elections.

Salvini has denounced “repeated insults against me and the League by supposed allies”. 

Later at a meeting in the central coastal city of Pescara he set a campaigning tone.

“We are told that we cannot reduce taxes. We will prove, if you give us the power to do so, that it is possible to reduce taxes on Italian workers,” Salvini told supporters. 

- © AFP 2019.

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