Conte, in power since 2018, has stood down after one of his governing partners pulled out of the coalition.

Giuseppe Conte sitting in his office
news International Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - 20:34

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stood down on Tuesday amid criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Sergio Mattarella confirmed he had accepted Conte's resignation. The prime minister held a Cabinet meeting earlier this morning to inform the government of his plans.

Conte, in power since 2018, quit after ex-PM Matteo Renzi pulled his Italia Viva party out of the governing coalition.

Renzi opposed Conte's plans for spending more than €200 billion ($243 billion) of EU recovery fund cash.

Conte fights for survival

Conte survived a confidence vote in Italy's lower house of parliament last week, but failed to secure a majority in the Senate, the upper house.

It would have hampered his government from enacting further reforms, and he will now try to form a stronger government by tapping new potential coalition partners.

His remaining allies, the center-left Democratic Party and the populist 5 Star Movement, have already said they will back the former law professor.

If he fails, the president could ask another candidate to try and form a new adminstration, or fresh elections would be called.

Government under pressure over pandemic response

More than 85,000 people have died in Italy since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year and ministers are also under fire for the perceived slow rollout of the EU's vaccine scheme.

The Italian government on Sundaythreatened to sue pharmaceutical giants over the delays in delivering contracted shots.

Conte, who is an independent and not officially affialiated with any political party, also has had to contend with the country's high unemployment and public debt

He initially headed up a coalition between 5 Star and Matteo Salvini's far-right League party.

But Salvini quit in August 2019 in a failed bid to trigger new elections.

The ruling parties want to avoid snap elections this time.

Opinion polls suggest they would lead to victory for a center-right coalition comprising Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the League party.

(This article was first published on DW. You can read the original article here)

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