By Crispian Balmer
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s prime minister announced his resignation on Tuesday as he made a blistering attack on his own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the ruling coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing parliament after it was recalled from its summer recess to decide the future of the barely year-old government, accused League party chief Salvini of seeking to cash in on his rising popularity.
“(Salvini) has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party,” Conte told a packed Senate, with a stony-faced Salvini sitting by his side. “His decisions pose serious risks for this country.”
Conte, who belongs to neither of the coalition’s two parties, is expected to hand in his resignation later in the day, allowing the head of state to start formal consultations with parties to see if a new coalition can be formed.
Failing that, President Sergio Mattarella would dissolve parliament.
Conte made his attack as Salvini sat right next to him, at times shaking his head, rolling his eyes or nodding to League senators as the prime minister unleashed a blistering critique of his actions over the past two weeks.
On the other side of Conte sat Luigi Di Maio, head of the League’s now-estranged coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement, which was branded as obstructionist by Salvini over the past 12 days, since he pulled the plug on their alliance.
Salvini has demanded early elections, 3-1/2 years ahead of schedule, confident his surging popularity will sweep him into power as prime minister and push the anti-establishment 5-Star into opposition.
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