Govt in crisis as Salvini calls for early elections

League leader says ruling majority 'no longer exists'

(ANSA) - Rome, August 8 - Deputy Premier and League leader Matteo Salvini on Thursday called for Italy to have early elections, saying that the coalition that supports Premier Giuseppe Conte's government has broken down.
    Conte's League/5-Star Movement (M5S) coalition government was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when the ruling majority split dramatically in votes in parliament about the controversial TAV Turin-Lyon high-speed rail-link project. The Senate voted against a motion presented by the M5S seeking to stop the TAV with 181 votes against, including those of League lawmakers, and 110 in favour, while other motions in favour of the project were approved.
    "I reiterated today to Premier Conte that we should go to parliament immediately to acknowledge that the ruling majority no longer exists, as shown by the TAV vote," Salvini, who is also interior minister, said in a statement after meeting the premier. "Let's quickly give the say back to the voters". The TAV is just one of several issues that has caused tension between the M5S and League recently.
    Fellow Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said Thursday that his 5-Star Movement (M5S) was ready for a snap election. Di Maio, who is also labour and industry minister, said that the League had "joked with the country". He said that early elections should not be held, however, until a reform to cut the number of lawmakers by 345 is approved.
    Democratic Party (PD) leader Nicola Zingaretti said that his opposition, centre-left group was ready for early elections too.
    "We are ready for the challenge," Zingaretti said via Facebook.
    "The next election won't just decide which government (Italy has) but also the destiny of our democracy, the international position of our country.
    "The PD is making a call to bring together all the parties that intend to stop dangerous ideas and personalities.
    "We are at work immediately, together, to have a better Italy victorious". Early elections could be in Salvini's interest as the League is by far the best-supported party in Italy at the moment, according to the opinion polls.