Jan 25, 2021 - World

Italian PM Conte to resign, seek to form new government

Conte gesticulates as he discusses the political crisis before the Senate. Photo: Roberto Monaldo/Getty Images

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will resign on Tuesday and attempt to form a new governing coalition, a government spokesperson announced.

Why it matters: Conte is easily Italy’s most popular leading politician, but he lacks a political party of his own and lost his governing majority in the Senate when a small party withdrew from the government. If he can’t cobble together a new coalition, Italy could face fresh elections.

Background: Conte was an anonymous law professor until just 2½ years ago, when he became the compromise pick to lead a coalition of two populist parties, Five Star and the League.

  • He survived their divorce in 2019 to form a new government with Five Star and the center-left Democratic Party, and his stature grew during the pandemic as he ordered Europe’s first lockdown and lobbied for relief funds from the EU.
  • Conte’s approval rating has ranged between 55–66% over the last year, according to Morning Consult’s tracker, making him one of the EU’s most popular leaders.
  • But Italy’s fractious politics mean it’s no sure thing that he’ll be able to form a third government in three years. If he can't, the ensuing elections will be deeply unpredictable.

The big picture: Political instability is nothing new for Italy. The premiership changed hands 16 times in the 30 years before Conte took office.

Worth noting: The party that triggered the government’s collapse is led by Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister. He objects to Conte’s spending plan for the EU recovery funding.

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