Italian PM Conte slams ‘irresponsible’ Salvini before offering resignation

Italy took a step closer to early elections today, after PM Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation as the political crisis came to a head.

Italian PM Conte slams 'irresponsible' Salvini before offering resignation
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (L) listens as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (R) speaks to the Senate. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte launched a scathing attack on League leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini in a highly-anticipated speech on Tuesday afternoon, before saying he would offer his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella.

READ ALSO: Italy's political crisis: what's going to happen next?

Conte told the Senate that Salvini was “irresponsible” to spark a political crisis and attept to bring down the government in the hope of forcing snap elections.

In the first half of his speech Conte launched a full-scale attack on Salvini, denouncing him for plunging Italy into crisis out of “personal and party interest.”

Conte's address came following a week of fallout from Salvini's decision to back out of the alliance on August 8, plunging the economy into turmoil.

Afer Conte announced his intention to resign, Salvini hit back saying: “Thank you, finally, I would do it all again.”

Salvini “violated the solemn promise he took when the government began that if there were differences they should be discussed in good faith and with loyal collaboration,” Conte said as League Senators booed and hissed, and Salvini, sitting beside Conte, shook his head and made faces.

Conte has been a mostly quiet figure during the past 14 months of the ruling League-Five Star Movement coalition government, of which he was appointed as a “neutral” head.

“I heard you calling for 'full powers' and invoke (demonstrations in) the piazzas to support you, which worries me,” Conte said.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1922 assumed so-called full powers to govern the country at his whim.

“We don't need full powers but leaders who have a sense of institutions,” Conte said.

“Our system precludes authoritarian ways,” Conte continued, as Salvini looked on beside him.

“Making citizens vote is the essence of democracy, asking them to vote every year is irresponsible,” Conte added.

“I'm ending this government experience here… I will go to the president of the republic to inform him of my resignation,” he said.

Salvini responded with a 20-minute speech in which he spoke about migration – a topic Conte had previously said the interior minister was “obsessed” with.

During Salvini's speech, dozens of senators walked out of the room while one was reprimanded by the Senate's president for holding up a protest sign.

A small group of protesters heckled League senators as they arrived at the Senate.

“Get out, buffoons, get out, mafia,” the protesters shouted, prompting a League senator to wave his middle finger at them

Conte is expected to offer his formal resignation this evening after the end of today's debate in the Senate, which began at 3pm and is expected to last almost four hours.

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.