Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi looks set to trigger a leadership contest at a meeting of his ruling Democratic Party (PD) on Monday which could delay the early election he has been pushing for since he was toppled as premier last year.
Rising tensions in the PD have deflated Renzi's bid for an vote by June, around a year ahead of schedule, with a sizeable minority threatening to split and take away a chunk of votes.
When the riven party meets in Rome, Renzi is expected to play a disruptive card by stepping down from the helm, sparking a leadership bid which could imply months of campaigning.
"We are used to surprises, but if nothing changes overnight the leadership contest will probably start, meaning the party secretary resigns," Michele Emiliano, the PD governor of the southern Puglia region, told state TV RAI.
Emiliano is among critics who say Renzi has taken the party too far to the right, and want to challenge him before any vote.
Both Emiliano and former PD lower house floor leader Roberto Speranza would almost certainly run in a leadership race which now looks inevitable, a minister close to Renzi told Reuters.
Another obstacle to an early vote are the current electoral laws which ultimate arbiter President Sergio Mattarella has said need to be aligned between both houses of parliament.