Conte quits as Italy’s PM in tactical bid to build new majority

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte handed in his resignation to the head of state on Tuesday, hoping he would be given an opportunity to put together a new coalition and rebuild his parliamentary majority.

The deepening political crisis is playing out against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 85,000 Italians -- the second highest death toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth highest in the world.

Conte lost his absolute majority in the upper house Senate last week when a junior partner, the Italia Viva party headed by former premier Matteo Renzi, quit in a row over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and economic recession.

Efforts to lure centrist and independent senators into the coalition to fill the hole left by Renzi have met little success, leaving Conte no choice but to resign and open a formal government crisis that will give him more time to find a deal.

President Sergio Mattarella will start a rapid round of consultations with party leaders on Wednesday afternoon to test the political waters, his office said. - Reuters