Conte handed in his resignation after lashing out at far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Conte accused the Interior Minister of pursuing his own interests by pulling the plug on the ruling coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
As president, Mattarella wields important powers including the ability to dissolve parliament, call elections and pick prime ministers. Here are some of his options to forge a way out of the political crisis:
1. An unlikely coalition
Negotiations between Italy's deeply divided parties would be difficult, although a new alliance between M5S and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is being discussed.This would torpedo Salvini's plan to force elections and become prime minister, and would lead to a new government without his anti-immigration League.
In a bid to get a PD-M5S alliance off the ground, previously almost unthinkable, former PD premier Matteo Renzi has said he will not participate. Many in the anti-establishment party view him as elitist, so this could open up the possibility of talks.
2. A pro-European coalition
Romano Prodi, the former centre-left premier and ex-president of the European Commission, has proposed a unity government involving M5S, the PD and Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia. This would effectively team up the main parties in coalition against Salvini.
After a year of Salvini's highly critical anti-EU rhetoric, Prodi said the new coalition would allow a “reintegration of Italy as an active member of the European Union.” Such a government would likely be welcomed in Brussels.
Supporters of the far-right leader Salvini show support outside of Italian senate. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
3. Snap election
Mattarella is responsible for verifying the viability of a new government coalition, based on proposals from political parties. If he believes no stable majority exists to govern, he may decide to call a snap election, possibly at the end of October.
This would grant Salvini his wish, with polls suggesting his League party and right-wing allies could win. Salvini could be crowned prime minister with the League in coalition with the anti-immigration, anti-LGBT Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia. But of course, it's impossible to say what the result of any election would be.
4. A technocrat government
Alternatively, Mattarella could decide to appoint a new caretaker administration. This government of technocrats would manage day-to-day business ahead of a new election, probably next year.
This would allow them to pass next year's budget to avoid an automatic rise in value-added tax that would hit the least well-off the hardest.
5. U-turn coalition
Although extremely unlikely, a reconciliation between the League and M5S cannot be totally ruled out.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini speaks to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP