Italy's premier Conte resigns amid deepening political crisis

Conte has resigned in a tactical move that he hopes will allow him to build a new coalition.

Giuseppe Conte resigned as Italy's prime minister on 26 January, tendering his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, in a tactical bid to build a new majority.

Conte is now expected to seek a fresh mandate from Mattarella - who as president acts as guarantor - to form a new, stronger government after losing his majority last week.

Mattarella is set to call a round of formal consultations with all parties in parliament, beginning tomorrow, before deciding on the next step to take.

Political observers expect the president to give Conte the first opportunity to try and create a new government, with a broader coalition, however the situation remains highly uncertain.

The crisis came to a head after the centrist Italia Viva (IV) party led by former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew from the nation’s ruling coalition, citing frustrations with the government, leaving Conte without a parliamentary majority.

Conte, who does not belong to a party, went on to survive two votes of confidence in parliament but failed to retain an absolute majority, despite attempts to gain the support of so-called 'responsible' lawmakers to bolster the government.

As Italy is thrown into fresh political crisis, in the midst of a pandemic and the worst economic turmoil since world war two, the leaders of the three government coalition parties - the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) and leftist LEU party - have backed Conte.

There are now several different scenarios, including the option of Renzi making amends with his former partners, however this is complicated as the largest coalition partner, M5S, has ruled out doing business with Renzi again.

If all available avenues fail, then Mattarella would be forced to dissolve parliament and call elections, two years ahead of schedule.

This option would be welcomed by the centre-right opposition which opinion polls suggest would win.