Salvini pulls support for Italian coalition, calls for snap election
Opinion polls indicate Salvini's League party would win the election.
AFP, Rome :
Italy's coalition government was in crisis Friday after far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini pulled his support and called for snap elections.
The heightened political tensions in the heavily-indebted country rattled financial markets, where yields rose on Italian government bonds on Friday.
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has held several rounds of talks to try to ease the crisis in the 14-month old government, angrily called on Salvini to justify his move.
Salvini has frequently clashed with his fellow Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) party over a range of policies.
He stepped up the pressure on Thursday, saying there was no longer a majority to support a government and calling for new elections.
"Let's go straight to parliament to say there is no longer a majorityâ€¦ and quickly go back to the voters," Salvini said.
The move sparked a political crisis described by the left-wing newspaper La Repubblica as "a farce that makes no-one laugh".
Conte, who has held separate talks with Salvini and President Sergio Mattarella, went on the offensive, saying it was not for the firebrand interior minister to summon parliament.
"It's not up to him to dictate the steps of the political crisis," he added.
Conte called on Salvini "to explain to the country and justify to the electorate, who believed in the possibility of change, the reasons that brought him to abruptly interrupt" the activities of government.
Both houses of parliament are currently on recess for the holidays and are not due back until September.
Long-rumbling tensions between the coalition's populist leaders have peaked in recent days, with the row centred on the financing of a multi-billion-euro high-speed train line between the Italian city of Turin and Lyon in neighbouring France.
On financial markets, the yield on 10-year government bonds jumped to 1.738 percent from 1.530 percent on Thursday while the spread between Italian and German bonds jumped to 233 basis points.
Â·An early election may benefit Salvini, with opinion polls putting his
League party ahead, leaving open the possibility that it could govern in
alliance with another, smaller far-right party, Fratelli d'Italia.
That contrasts with the popularity of the coalition partners in the June 2018 after an election that saw M5S take 32 percent of the vote, while the League scored 17 percent.
In the European election in May this year, however, the League took the most votes in Italy with 34 percent against about 17 percent for M5S.
Italian media has reported that Salvini, in earlier talks with Conte, set conditions for staying in the coalition - including the resignation of the transport, defence and economy ministers, who have resisted his projects and policies.