Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced he will resign Tuesday, in what media reports said was an attempt to build a new government after weeks of political turmoil.
He called a cabinet meeting for 9:00am (0800 GMT) when he “will inform the ministers of his desire to go to the Quirinale (President Sergio Mattarella’s office) to resign”, his office said.
Media reports suggest Conte will seek a mandate to form a new government to run Italy as it battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 85,000 people dead in the country and crippled the economy.
The ruling coalition has been teetering on the edge of collapse since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his small Italia Viva party on January 13.
Conte survived a parliamentary vote of confidence last week but failed to secure a majority in the Senate, the upper house, leaving his government severely weakened.
His resignation comes ahead of a key vote on judicial reforms later this week, which commentators suggest the government was on course to lose.
“Conte’s calculation is that by moving early, and thereby avoiding a humiliating defeat in the Senate later this week, he would increase his chances of securing a mandate from Mattarella to form a new government,” noted Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy.
He will likely then seek to widen support beyond his coalition, currently comprising mainly of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
“However, it is currently unclear whether Conte can succeed in such an effort,” Piccoli said.
He added that if he fails, the M5S and PD could “ditch Conte and look for another candidate” to head a new coalition government.