By Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli
8/20/19, 3:58 PM CET
Updated 8/20/19, 6:20 PM CET
ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation Tuesday, setting the country on an uncertain political course that could lead to a snap election or a new governing alliance.
Conte’s move preempted a confidence vote that had been expected to take place 12 days after Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party and Italy's interior minister, called for such a motion.
Before announcing his resignation, Conte held a one-hour speech critical of Salvini, noting that the minister's decision to end the coalition government with the populist 5Stars Movement "has major consequences for the country and its economy."
“This government ends here,” Conte said.
The outgoing prime minister — who was booed by lawmakers from the League — said Salvini got "distracted from the government’s good work [because] he was too focused looking for an excuse to pull the plug on it.”
In response, Salvini thanked Conte for his resignation and said: “Finally.”
The prime minister's resignation will not automatically trigger a snap election. It is now up to President Sergio Mattarella to decide on the way forward. Conte will head to see the president Tuesday night after the four-hour Senate debate.
Salvini, speaking from the parliamentary benches rather than the government’s seats, said he was a “free man, unlike many other lawmakers who put the interests of Brussels, Germany and France before those of Italians.”