LONDON — Italy's former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday announced his intention to pull his centrist party out of the ruling coalition, plunging the country back into political chaos as it battles a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Speaking at a highly-anticipated press conference, Renzi said two ministers from his Italia Viva party would resign. It leaves the government without a majority in parliament and on the brink of collapse.
Support from Renzi's party had been critical to the survival of the coalition led by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he hoped Renzi would not pull his ministers from the Cabinet, warning the country would not be able to understand why the government had collapsed amid the ongoing health crisis.
The Five Star Movement and Democratic Party had also urged Renzi to preserve the unity of the ruling government at a time when the country is trying to get citizens vaccinated and prevent the economy from deteriorating even further.
The southern European nation is no stranger to political conflicts, tensions and scandals. Slim majorities in Rome have led to more than 60 governments since World War II.
However, the latest political dispute is coming at a particularly painful moment, with the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in Italy currently among the highest in Europe. The disagreement centers on EU funds and how they will relaunch the Italian economy after the pandemic.
To date, Italy has recorded 2.3 million Covid-19 cases and 79,819 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The country's gross domestic product is predicted to fall by around 10% in 2020.