Italian Premier Conte Vows Squabbling Coalition Will Survive

(Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte vowed the country’s fractious governing coalition won’t collapse after European elections in May and repeated that corrective budget measures such as a wealth tax aren’t needed amid the worsening economic outlook.

Conte, in an interview with daily Corriere della Sera, took issue with comments by Fitch Ratings that tension between coalition partners -- the populist Five Star Movement and right-wing League -- was contributing to investor uncertainty and could lead to an early vote.

“The government will survive, even after the European elections,” the premier said in the interview published Sunday. “Frankly, this political instability I really don’t see.”

The 54-year-old Conte spends much of his time mediating policy disputes between his two deputy premiers: Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, head of the League. They have clashed on issues ranging from immigration to the TAV high-speed rail link between Turin and Lyon, France.

Salvini’s popularity has soared since Italy’s national election in March, raising the possibility he might be tempted to cash in his gains, bring down the government and form a new one as its leader.

European Vote

Conte conceded that the European election outcome might reverse the results of Italy’s 2018 vote, in which Five Star gained more parliamentary seats than Salvini’s League.

“It could happen that the political forces in the governing majority get a consensus proportionately different than the election a year ago,” Conte said in the Corriere interview. “But even if that happens, it wouldn’t impact this government’s experience.”

The latest indication of popular support for the coalition partners will come in Sunday’s regional elections in Sardinia. Salvini spent much of the past week campaigning there, siding with shepherds and farmers who blocked roads and poured milk into the streets to demand higher prices for their produce.

“We’ll win in Sardinia today, but it won’t change anything for the government, we’re going forward for five years,” Salvini was quoted as saying on Sunday by news agency Ansa.

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