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Italian right-wing parties reject coalition partner as government heads toward collapse

ROME — Mario Draghi’s Italian government tilted even further toward collapse Sunday, as the leaders of the two right-wing parties within the ruling coalition said they could no longer work with the 5Star Movement.

Draghi’s leadership has been hanging by a thread since last week when the populist 5Star Movement boycotted a confidence vote, prompting the prime minister to offer his resignation and plunging the country into uncertainty.

President Sergio Mattarella, the head of state, provisionally rejected Draghi’s resignation and asked him to first refer back to parliament, raising hopes that Draghi could still remain in office if it is clear that he still commands a majority. Draghi will go back to parliament Wednesday, potentially holding a vote on his government or resigning.

But after a meeting on Sunday, the leaders of the two right-wing parties in Draghi’s coalition, Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini of the League, said in a joint statement that they “excluded the possibility of governing with the 5Stars any further because of their incompetence and untrustworthiness.” 

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy opposition party, has been calling for an early election, which right-wing parties are expected to win as a coalition.

Berlusconi and Salvini said they would monitor the evolution of the political situation, but welcomed the prospect of an election “very soon.”

Tensions in the governing coalition had increased in recent weeks, after the 5Stars pushed back against the executive branch’s decision to send further arms to Ukraine.

5Star leader Giuseppe Conte handed Draghi a list of demands, including a minimum wage and guarantees for the party’s flagship policies, such as on welfare payments and green conversion incentives for homes.

On Saturday, Conte said in a Facebook video that he expected a response to his demands and that without “clear answers,” the 5Star Movement would no longer be able to “share direct government responsibility.” Still, he said he remained open to the possibility of providing external support for Draghi’s leadership.

But Draghi has already said explicitly that he would not govern without the 5Stars, meaning that finding an alternative majority would be complicated.

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