Coalition in turmoil as presidential vote differences emerge
The leaders of Italy's coalition partners, the League and 5-Star Movement, warned yesterday the government could collapse following mutual recriminations over the election of the next European Commission president.
While the League voted against the mainstream German candidate Ursula von der Leyen for the powerful EU post, the 5-Star backed her this week in the European Parliament, with its support proving decisive in guaranteeing her promotion.
Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads 5-Star, said the League position risked isolating Italy, while League leader Matteo Salvini accused his partner of betraying ordinary voters after promising to bring change to Europe.
In an interview with 'Corriere della Sera', Mr Salvini said he was tired of facing resistance from 5-Star in other areas, including granting Italy's regions greater autonomy.
Asked if this meant the government would fall, he replied: "That's up to 5-Star. Either we get things done, or we don't."
Mr Di Maio hit back, saying the government could not carry on in a climate of distrust and constant threats.
"If the League wants to topple the government, then it must say so clearly", he said in a video posted on Facebook.
Italian political commentators have long speculated that the window for a government collapse would close on July 20, because after that date any new election would be pushed too deep into the autumn to enable the 2020 budget to be approved - key legislation around which the political calendar is built.
Italy has never held an election in the autumn or winter.
However, Mr Salvini said there were no such restrictions. "I don't believe in windows and I don't believe that we only have two or three days," he said.
Mr Salvini is facing significant pressure from within his party to pull the plug on the government which took office last June after an inconclusive national election, with League officials accusing 5-Star of repeatedly thwarting their policy agenda.
"Game over. Don't they understand?" foreign affairs ministry undersecretary and senior League politician Guglielmo Picchi said.