Conte resigns amid threat of presidential charges
Italy is on the verge of a constitutional crisis after anti-establishment Five-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio called for the impeachment of President Sergio Mattarella and his designated prime minister resigned.
Di Maio was enraged by Mattarella’s decision to reject a Eurosceptic former Bank of Italy official as finance minister, preventing western Europe’s first fully populist government from forming its chosen cabinet.
Mattarella had been under pressure from Di Maio and Matteo Salvini (pictured), leader of the nationalist League, to approve the appointment of the 81-year-old economist, Paolo Savona, who has been an outspoken critic of Italy’s decision to enter the euro two decades ago.
When Mattarella vetoed Savona’s appointment, the prime-minister-in-waiting Giuseppe Conte abandoned his effort to form a cabinet and resigned.
In a televised address, Mattarella, who was appointed by the outgoing, centrist administration, outlined his constitutional role as guarantor of the cabinet.
“I have given up my mandate to form the government of change,” Conte told the media after talks with Mattarella.
Italy has been without a government since the March 4 poll created a hung parliament with another election expected this year.
The president’s move to quash Savona’s nomination was unprecedented in recent history and exposed a deep divide between Mattarella, who is supposed to be politically neutral, and the two anti-establishment parties. Both leaders denounced the veto, condemning alleged meddling by Germany, ratings agencies and financial groups.
Mattarella defended his decision by saying appointing Savona as finance minister would pose a risk for Italians because it would create uncertainty in the national economy.
“I asked for that ministry an authoritative political figure from the coalition parties who was not seen as the supporter of a line that could provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” the president said.
“The uncertainty over our position within the euro has alarmed Italian and foreign investors who have invested in securities and companies.”
Both parties have previously suggested they would support an exit from the euro but moderated their views during their election campaign.
Mattarella summoned a former International Monetary Fund staff member, Carlo Cottarelli, to the presidential palace today (Monday). It was suggested that Cottarelli would be asked to form a government of unelected technocrats.
Salvini denounced the decision to reject Savona, his personal choice for the economic minister, saying that Mattarella had overstepped his authority and was revealing his bias.
“In a democracy, if we are still in a democracy, there’s only one thing to do, let the Italians have their say,” Salvini raged, adding that Italy was not a “colony” and “we won’t have Germany tell us what to do”.