Ex-Premier Renzi Keeps Options Open on New Italy Government

Rome, Jan 28 (AFP/APP): Matteo Renzi, who brought down Italy’s ruling coalition, insisted Thursday he must be part of any new government but declined to say whether Giuseppe Conte would stay as prime minister.

Renzi, himself a former premier, withdrew his Italia Viva party from the coalition on January 13, depriving Conte of his majority in parliament and forcing his resignation on Tuesday. Renzi had for weeks been criticising Conte’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 87,000 people in Italy dead and devastated the economy.

President Sergio Mattarella is now meeting the leaders of all the political parties to establish if Conte has enough support to return at the helm of a stronger government, or if somebody else should take charge. After his talks with the head of state, Renzi said the decision lay with Conte and his supporters, notably the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

He told reporters that he wanted “to understand if they want to be with us or not… if they want to be with us, they have to discuss ideas”. “I don’t see any other political majority that does not include Italia Viva,” he said, adding: “At the end of this road we will discuss who will be in the driving seat.”

Italia Viva is barely registering three percent in opinion polls, but without its backing, Conte cannot control the Senate upper parliamentary house. The prime minister and his supporters have been scrambling to win over opposition senators, but if they fail, M5S and the PD may try to form a government with someone else at the helm. An IXE opinion poll on Thursday showed that 45 percent of Italians want Conte to stay on, compared to 26 per cent favouring snap elections.

Some 11 percent would like the outgoing centre-left coalition to return, but under another premier. A further seven percent said they would rather have a new centre-right coalition in power, while 11 percent of those polled had no opinion. Conte was also confirmed as the country’s most popular politician, with 52 percent of respondents expressing confidence in him.

The IXE survey was based on phone interviews with 1,000 people during January 25-28, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

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