The Italian Five Star Movement will not take part in the parliamentary vote of confidence, which could lead to the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Other coalition parties have warned they will leave the government if 5-Star boycotts Thursday’s Senate vote, and Draghi himself said this week he would not lead the administration without party leader Giuseppe Conte.
The prime minister’s office did not immediately comment on Wednesday.
The five-star decision plunges Italy into political uncertainty, risks undermining efforts to raise billions of euros in European Union funds and could lead to early national elections in the northern hemisphere fall.
Mr Conte announced on Wednesday that his party would not support a vote of confidence, saying the government should do more to address growing social problems in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.
“I strongly fear that September will be a time when many families are faced with a terrible choice: pay the electricity bill or buy food,” he said, referring to the sharp increase in energy prices.
The leader of the Five Star Movement, Giuseppe Conte, announced late on Wednesday that his party would not support a vote of no confidence. Source: A MONKEY / Mauro Scrobogna / AP
However, he left the door open for further discussions with Draghi about overcoming political differences.
“We are absolutely ready (to have) dialogue in order to make our constructive contribution to the government, to Draghi, (but) we do not want to write out carte blanche,” he said.
The prime minister said on Tuesday that if 5-Star stops supporting the government, President Sergio Mattarella will have to decide what to do next.
Mr Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank, also said he would not be ready to head a new government without five stars in the cabinet.
Two coalition parties, the right-wing League and the centre-left Democratic Party, said on Wednesday that early elections would be the most likely outcome if the government collapses.
A nationwide vote should take place in the first half of 2023. Moving the vote to autumn would be highly unusual in Italy because that is the time when governments traditionally draw up their budgets, which must be approved by the end of the year.
Support for the 5 Star Movement has declined over the past year as it struggles to establish a clear identity for itself.
In an effort to raise his profile, he complained for weeks about the government’s priorities and demanded more generous financial assistance for needy families and further funding for the welfare program he championed for poor Italians.
Wednesday’s confidence vote concerns a cost-of-living aid package worth about 26 billion euros ($39 billion). It also includes a provision allowing the city of Rome to build a giant incinerator, a project that 5-Star has always opposed.