Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte has resigned on Tuesday in a bid to form a new coalition government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conte’s resignation was accepted by President Sergio Mattarella who “reserves the right to decide (what to do next) and invited the government to stay in office in a caretaker capacity”, an Italian presidency statement said.

Conte survived a confidence vote last week after a coalition partner pulled out but has been left severely weakened and his resignation bid is seen as an attempt to avert a humiliating defeat in the Senate later this week.

Conte has called a cabinet meeting for 9:00am (0800 GMT), when he “will inform the ministers of his desire… to resign”, his office said late Monday.

Media reports suggest Conte will seek a mandate to form a new government to replace a ruling coalition that has been on the edge of collapse since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his small Italia Viva party on January 13.

The confidence vote was called after former PM Matteo Renzi pulled his small, liberal Italia Viva party out of the coalition and said he would only return if Mr Conte accepted a list of demands.

He objects to Mr Conte’s plans for spending €209bn (£186bn; $254bn) of EU recovery funds – part of a €750bn EU rescue for the Covid crisis.

Mr Renzi says EU funds should be invested in promising sectors like digital and green technologies, and he does not want technocrats, rather than MPs, deciding on the allocations.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) has said it will “remain at Conte’s side”.

His resignation comes ahead of a vote on judicial reforms later this week that MPs in his coalition warned he would lose.

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