By Crispian Balmer ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte appeared in no rush Thursday to resolve a political crisis triggered by a minor coalition partner, who left the cabinet amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Italia Viva, a small party headed by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left the government on Wednesday, filing a long list of complaints about the way Conte had handled the health emergency and accusing him of seizing power. However, Renzi’s group has left the door open to return to the fold whenever a new political pact can be reached. “It’s not about who (is in charge), but about what is done,” Elena Bonetti, one of the two outgoing ministers of Italia Viva, told Radio 24. Conte himself has not said anything in public since Renzi resigned, and has without any indication that he was willing to hand over his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella. One of the options that would be presented to him would be to try to improvise a group of supposed “responsible” parliamentarians from the ranks of the opposition who would promise to prop up his government in the absence of Italia Viva. “Conte wants to go to parliament and see if he can’t build an alternative majority there,” said a government official, who declined to be named. To do this, it would need to find around 25 lawmakers in the 630-seat lower house and up to 18 in the 315-seat Senate. However, such a majority would be very fragile and would make it difficult to enact meaningful reform. If not, he will have to swallow his pride and seek to forge a new alliance with Renzi, one of Italy’s most ruthless politicians whose party falters in the polls. Italy’s often volatile markets changed little in early trading Thursday, thanks in large part to large-scale purchases of Italian assets by the European Central Bank, which have shielded investors from hostile economic and political winds. However, the calm would change if there were any indication that the crisis would lead to early general elections, which according to polls would be won by the Eurosceptic bloc headed by Matteo Salvini’s far-right League. The crisis comes in the context of the contagion of the coronavirus, which is killing hundreds of people every day and has plunged Italy into its worst recession since World War II. One of Renzi’s main complaints about Conte is the way he has handled plans to spend up to 200 billion euros ($ 243 billion) of European Union funds intended to help rebuild the country, accusing him of trying to circumvent the parliament in decision-making. Renzi has also said that Conte must accept up to 36 billion euros offered by the European Union in a separate rescue fund for the health system. No other EU country has taken advantage of this mechanism amid fears that the money will arrive on unwanted terms. European Affairs Minister Vincenzo Amendola, a member of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) coalition, warned that Italy runs the risk of losing funds unless it acts together. “All my European colleagues are very concerned,” he told Sky Italia TV. ($ 1 = 0.8230 euros)
Italy’s Conte takes time to resolve political crisis By Reuters
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