The fate of the Italian government hangs in the balance this week amid a confrontation between the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and his coalition ally and former prime minister, Matteo Renzi.
Renzi has repeatedly threatened to pull his small Italia Viva party from the ruling majority unless the government changes tack on how to reboot Italy’s fragile economy. Renzi has also called for Conte to relinquish his control over the secret services and for the government to speed up the distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations.
Conte has so far resisted the pressure, saying last week he was ready to confront Renzi in parliament. However, Conte is reportedly organising a meeting between party leaders, either on Monday or Tuesday, to discuss a possible government reshuffle. The crucial day is 7 January, when Conte will seek support from ministers for the economic recovery plan, which could lead Italia Viva to abandon the coalition and prompt a government crisis.
Renzi, who was prime minister from 2014-16, in effect orchestrated the Conte-led coalition between the centre-left Democratic party (PD) and Five Star Movement (M5S), after the collapse of the coalition government of M5S and Matteo Salvini’s far-right League in August 2019. Renzi then left the PD and established Italia Viva, which has two government ministers and attracts about 3% of voters in polls.
He told Corriere della Sera on Monday his ministers were not in government out of “vainglory” but because they had ideas.