Italy’s PM blasts Matteo Salvini ahead of expected resignation

Giuseppe Conte tells Senate his deputy prime minister is following ‘his own interests’

Italy's prime minister accused his interior minister, right-wing politician Matteo Salvini, on Tuesday of trying to drag down the ruling coalition for personal and political gain, putting the nation at risk of financial instability.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing parliament after it was recalled from its summer recess to decide the future of the barely year-old government, accused League party leader Mr Salvini of seeking to cash in on his rising popularity.

"[Mr Salvini] has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party," Mr Conte told a packed Senate, with a stony-faced Mr Salvini sitting by his side. "His decisions pose serious risks for this country."

Mr Conte, who belongs to neither of the coalition’s two parties, was widely expected to resign later in the day, opening the way for the head of state to begin consultations with parties to see if a new coalition can be formed.

Failing that, President Sergio Mattarella would dissolve parliament.

Mr Conte made his attack as Mr Salvini sat right next to him, at times shaking his head, rolling his eyes or nodding to League senators as the prime minister unleashed a blistering critique of his actions over the past two weeks.

On the other side of Conte sat Luigi Di Maio, head of the League's now-estranged coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, which was branded as obstructionists by Mr Salvini over the past 12 days, since he pulled the plug on their alliance.

Mr Salvini has demanded early elections, 3½ years ahead of schedule, confident his surging popularity will sweep him into power as prime minister and push the anti-establishment Five Star into opposition. – Reuters