POLICORO, Italy: Hardline Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was pulling out all the stops on Saturday to rally supporters for a snap election after he withdrew his League party from an increasingly acrimonious coalition government, plunging the country into turmoil.
The far-right Salvini told Rai Uno television on Friday he had had enough of working with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and what he said was its refusal to work together on key issues during their 14-month alliance.
“I am in Puglia, I am meeting workers, farmers, they want a government which ensures certainty for investors,” he said.
Salvini, a sharp critic of a southern Italy he says has been pampered with state handouts, has made a point of attacking high taxes and the cozy duopoly of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Europe.
Taking his message to the beaches at the height of the summer holiday season, Salvini is seeking to build on the League’s strong showing in May’s European Parliament elections when it won 34 percent of the vote, twice that of the M5S.
The message appears to be getting across. Carlo Acquaviva, 27, a lawyer in the southern city of Bari and a League supporter for the past two years, slammed M5S “for having wasted the hopes of the young” in the region.
On Thursday, as relations with fellow Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio of M5S sank to to new lows, Salvini said there was no longer a majority to support the government and called for new elections “quickly.”
That could see Italy head to the polls as early as October — when the country would also be grappling with another budget likely to provoke a fresh stand-off with the European Union over borrowing and debt levels.
Under pressure from Brussels, the government is struggling to rein in its budget deficit and manage a massive debt mountain of more than 2.3 trillion euros.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who held several rounds of talks to try to ease the crisis, angrily called on Salvini to justify his move amid speculation about a possible new government combination.
This would supposedly be between a new M5S leadership supported by the center-left Democrat Party of former premier Matteo Renzi plus lawmakers who fear losing their seats in a snap poll.
Salvini was outraged by the possibility — “no palace intrigues, no unusual maneuvers, this coalition is dead and we must have elections,” he told Rai Uno.