Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has said he would still be open to continuing a coalition with the rival Five Star Movement, hours before an address by prime minister Giuseppe Conte that is expected to mark the end of the fractious government.
Mr Salvini’s League party, which has been part of the government since last year, has asked Italy’s senate for a vote of no confidence in Mr Conte’s administration. Mr Conte is expected to defend his record but many observers expect him also to offer his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella before a vote can be held.
Seeking to capitalise on high poll ratings, Mr Salvini pulled the plug on the unsteady coalition this month, calling for new elections with the premiership in his sights.
But his ambitions might be thwarted. Mr Mattarella could ask Mr Conte to form a new government, possibly involving Five Star in a different coalition.
Mr Salvini signalled that he was open to a reconciliation. “We will see after these eight days reflection if there is the will to go on [in government] . . . We are not prejudiced,” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
Mr Salvini offered a €50bn package of investments and tax cuts, suggesting his League party would still be ready to continue in government.
But the likelihood of a truce between the long-warring allies has faded in recent days after Five Star said that Mr Salvini was “no longer a credible partner”.
Andrea Cioffi, a Five Star under-secretary in the ministry for economic development, told the Financial Times: “Working with someone who caused all this chaos, it would be difficult, almost impossible to continue. There is no more trust.”
If Mr Conte resigns, Mr Mattarella must hold formal consultations to see if he can find an alternative majority in parliament, before deciding whether to call elections.
Former prime minister Matteo Renzi of the Democratic party, or PD, has proposed an alliance with Five Star that could potentially pass key legislation, such as the 2020 budget.
Mr Conte could even be in the running as leader of a new government, with different ministers. Veteran politician Bruno Tabacci of the More Europe party predicted: “Conte will use his speech to put distance between himself and Salvini, highlighting the rows between them on different subjects such as immigration.”
But while the parties have the numbers in parliament to form a coalition, Mr Renzi is a toxic figure to some Five Star lawmakers, and a coalition with the establishment PD would be divisive.
The PD is also internally divided. Emiliana De Blasio of Luiss University in Rome said: “The difficulty for the PD is that the composition of the parliament elected under Renzi and the parliamentarians are closer to Renzi but the party leaders are closer to Zingaretti.”
One PD source said. “It’s not a path that has to be taken for granted. A series of elements will have to align relatively quickly for that to happen. There is still a faction of the party who is not willing to govern with Five Star, certainly not with Di Maio.”