UPDATE: Italian government faces crisis as ministers quit

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government was plunged into crisis on Wednesday after the Italia Viva party pulled out of the ruling coalition.

UPDATE: Italian government faces crisis as ministers quit
Italian ex-PM and head of the 'Italia Viva' party, Matteo Renzi, holds a press conference at the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/POOL/AFP

In a long-threatened move, former premier Matteo Renzi announced on Wednesday evening that ministers from his Italia Viva party would withdraw, leaving Conte without a formal majority in the Senate.

READ ALSO: Italy's political crisis: Why now, and what happens next?

Renzi said that how the crisis panned out from here was “up to the prime minister”.

“We are ready for all kinds of discussions,” he told a televised press conference in Rome.

Matteo Renzi holds a press conference on Wednesday evening. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/POOL/AFP

The current government coalition is comprised of three parties: the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Renzi's smaller Italia Viva.

A leading member of the PD was quick to condemn Renzi's move. Former minister Andrea Orlando said it was “a serious mistake made by a few which we will all pay for”.

Without Italia Viva's 18 senators, Conte will now need new friends in the Senate, although his majority is large enough in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.

Renzi has been criticising Conte for weeks over a range of issues but his attacks homed in on the government's 222-billion-euro post-virus recovery plan, largely paid for in grants and loans from a 750-billion-euro European Union fund.

Though there were concerns that Renzi's protests would delay the recovery fund, Conte's government received parliamentary approval for their plan on Wednesday.

What happens now?

Conte could resign, there could be a reshuffle, or even snap elections – all the options remain on the table.

“At this stage, the outcome of this crisis is very uncertain. Elections do not look very likely at the moment, as some parties (such as Forza Italia and Italia Viva), which currently maintain a sizeable number of MPs would see their parliamentary power reduced in case of elections,” said Nicola Nobile, Italian economist at Oxford Economics.

Conte is reportedly now trying to gather support for a new majority from small parties and independent candidates.
More likely possible outcomes include “a cabinet reshuffle and Renzi’s party obtaining some more important seats”, the formation of a new government under Conte, or the current government continuing with a new prime minister.

Early elections would only take place in the event that none of the other options were workable.
Renzi said early elections were not what he wanted.
Opinion polls suggest that early elections would likely hand power to a coalition of right-wing parties, led by Matteo Salvini's League.

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EU parliament slams Italy’s clampdown on same-sex couples’ rights

Members of the EU parliament on Thursday demanded that Italy's government "rescind its decision" after the country's interior ministry ordered Milan to stop registering the children of same-sex families.

EU parliament slams Italy's clampdown on same-sex couples' rights

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni came to power last year after a campaign during which she placed a strong emphasis on traditional family values.

Earlier this month, the government made moves to restrict gay parents’ rights.

Milan had been registering children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available to heterosexual couples.

But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala said this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

Members of the European Parliament said they feared the Milan move was “part of a broader attack against the LGBTQI+ community in Italy”.

They urged the Italian government to “immediately rescind its decision” in an amendment to a 2022 report on the rule of law in the EU put forward by Renew Europe group of centrist and liberal MEPs.

They said the “decision will inevitably lead to discrimination against not only same-sex couples, but also primarily their children”, adding it was “a direct breach of children’s rights” under a UN convention.

Sala came to Brussels to seek MEPs’ support during a session on Wednesday and Thursday.

Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.

Decisions were made on a case-by-case basis by the courts as parents took legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally, including Milan.

Family law is decided by each member state but the European Commission in December presented a proposal that would force every country in the bloc to recognise parents’ rights granted in another nation.

The plan would protect children of same-sex families travelling within the EU.