Conte to quit, slams Salvini as 'opportunist'

League leader unrepentant, says wd do it all again

(ANSA) - Rome, August 20 - League leader Matteo Salvini was "irresponsible and opportunist" and showed a "grave lack of constitutional culture" in triggering a government crisis solely to cash in on surging poll numbers, Premier Giuseppe Conte said Tuesday, saying the government's action stops here" and saying he would go to President Sergio Mattarella to tender his resignation as premier. Salvini was undeterred, saying "I would do it all again".
    The timing of the crisis, Conte went on, showed "political opportunism" and Salvini had made a "gesture of institutional imprudence".
    The League's "drumming" about new elections was "offensive for the activity of the government," he added.
    He said Salvini had sought "a pretext for the crisis" in the 5-Star Movement's opposition to a French rail link after the League scored highly in the recent European elections.
    He said Salvini was "concerning" in his conception of managing power by "rabble-rousing" people in the streets.
    Conte also said Italy's Constitution precluded "authoritarian methods", referring to Salvini's controversial call for the people to grant him "full powers" in a snap vote.
    He said not even the "illuminated sovereign" Emperor Frederick II had demanded as much, saying even the highest king's powers were limited by the law.
    In Europe, he said, Salvini's "contrarian" views had sparked "confusion".
    He said Salvini did not have a "sense of the rules" and said he should have addressed parliament on a case of the League allegedly seeking Russian funding.
    Conte also criticised Salvini for brandishing rosaries and other religious symbols while announcing policy moves such as a crackdown on migrants.
    "Your use of religious symbols is unconscionable", he said.
    Conte said "the ongoing (government) crisis compromises the action of this government, which stops here".
    He said he would hand in his resignation to Mattarella, who would "guide the country in a delicate passage".
    In other remarks, Conte said the government crisis makes Italy weak in negotiations with the EU over new commissioners and other issues.
    He also said an emergency management of the budget is "very likely" given the timing of the crisis.
    Conte added that a new government will find it hard to avert a 23-billion-euro VAT hike. It would also be subject to leaps in the bond spread, he said.
    Conte said "every party is called to work a mediation between partial interests and general ones, when you concentrate only on partial interests you not only betray the nobility of politics but you compromise the national interest," in another attack on Salvini. Salvini showed a "grave lack of constitutional culture" in triggering the government crisis, Conte said.
    The timing of the crisis, he went on, showed "political opportunism" and Salvini made a "gesture of institutional imprudence".
    The League's "drumming" about new elections was "offensive for the activity of the government," he added.
    He said Salvini had sought "a pretext for the crisis" in the 5-Star Movement's longstanding opposition to a French rail link after the League scored highly in the recent European elections.
    He said Salvini was "concerning" in his conception of managing power by "rabble-rousing" people in the streets.
    Salvini told the Senate in reply that he was unrepentant.
    "I would do it all again. am here with the great force of being a free man, which means I am not afraid of the judgment of the Italians, in this chamber there are free women and men and women and men who are a little less free. Those who are afraid of the judgement of the Italian people are not a free woman or man." Salvini said he was "not afraid" of a possible new government alliance between the Democratic Party (PD) and his former allies in the M5S.
    As for the coming budget, he said he would fund it with 50 billion euros from tax cuts.
    In Europe, he said, he didn't want "an Italy that is a slave of anyone".
    He said the government had fallen because of the "many Mr Nos" who opposed projects such as the TAV high-speed rail link between Turin and Lyon.
    Salvini rejected Conte's criticism of his use of religious symbols saying that "as long as I live I will ask for Mary's protection".
    "Amor Vincit Omnia", he said in Latin quoting Virgil's tag that "Love Conquers All". Salvini said he was "not afraid" of a possible new government alliance between the Democratic Party (PD) and his former ally the M5S.
    He wished the M5S well in their collaboration of what he called "the Bibbiano party", referring to a foster care scandal in the PD-run town near Reggio Emilia where children were alleged subjected to electric shocks to train them to denounce their parents.
    Salvini told the M5S that the League was ready to approve a reduction in the number of Mps and Senators from 945 to 600, a key M5S policy pledge.
    Salvini told the M5S "you quote Saviano, we St John Paul II, he said and wrote that you don't get trust with declarations alone or by force, but with concrete actions and facts and if you want to complete the reforms we are with you. If you want to govern with Renzi good luck to you".
    After Salvini, former premier and ex-PD leader Matteo Renzi took the floor saying "the populist government has failed".
    Renzi said a new government was needed to avert the VAT hike.
    He also said that Salvini should clear up the alleged Russian funding case, suing his former spokesman Giancarlo Savoini, caught on tape allegedly asking for possible funding as oil kickbacks, if necessary.
   

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