ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned today, pushing the country into political uncertainty. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports the power vacuum comes as Italy grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and severe economic stagnation.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Conte formally handed his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella at noon today.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UGO ZAMPETTI: (Speaking Italian).
POGGIOLI: Ugo Zampetti, the president's chief of staff, said Mattarella will begin consultations tomorrow with all political leaders to try to form a new government. Conte's government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and center-left parties, is the 66th since the end of World War II and the fall of fascism. Political scientist Roberto D'Alimonte says Italians are unfortunately used to government crises.
ROBERTO D'ALIMONTE: We have not resolved in Italy the issue of political stability and government stability. And this is another example of this malaise of the Italian political system.
POGGIOLI: But this government collapse is particularly ominous. Italy continues to battle COVID-19, which has already killed more than 86,000 people and devastated the country's already weak economy.
D'ALIMONTE: And people do not understand really why we've had this political crisis, which is really internal to the political clash of ambitions.
POGGIOLI: That clash of ambitions was sparked by grumblings among Conte's coalition partners. In recent months, they began to complain about his centralization of power and his handling of some $240 billion in recovery funds Italy is to receive from the European Union. Last week, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his party's support in protest over Conte's handling of the second phase of the pandemic and what he called Conte's lack of vision for Italy's future. Conte hopes to get the nod to try to form another government, but D'Alimonte says he's not irreplaceable.
D'ALIMONTE: We should form a government as soon as possible, with or without Conte, and go on and take care of the pandemic and the recovery plan.
POGGIOLI: Members of the outgoing coalition want, at all costs, to avert snap elections, which increases pressure on the squabbling politicians to reach a compromise.
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.
(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "FANSHAWE")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.