Italy's Salvini says will submit no-confidence vote

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Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Friday that parliamentarians would have "to get off their bums" and return to parliament for a no-confidence vote after his far-right League party announced it would submit a corresponding motion to the Senate.

The announcement comes a day after Salvini called on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to step down, saying new elections were the "only alternative" to the populist coalition formed by the League and the Five Star Movement (M5S).

"Anyone who loses time is harming the country, " the League said in a statement on Friday.

Read more: Opinion: The problem is populism, not just Italy

Continuing government crisis

The moves come amid ongoing tensions between the two parties. These reached breaking point on Wednesday when the M5S voted against a high-speed rail link between France and Italy that the League supports. The League ended up convincing lawmakers to continue with the project.

Conte, who is not affiliated with either party, has accused Salvini of wanting an early vote to allow the League to profit from currently favorable voter sentiment, with opinion polls showing the party as being likely to comfortably win any election in the coming months.

Italy's parliamentarians are currently in summer recess. Parliamentary leaders are expected to meet next week to decide whether to call them back early, with the key votes expected to take place around August 20.

If the coalition ends, President Sergio Mattarella will decide whether to call new elections or to select another party leader that could achieve a governing majority.

'Frightening thoughts' of Hitler

Salvini advocates a hard-line anti-immigration and anti-EU stance, with a rallying cry of "Italians first" that is redolent of US President Donald Trump's "America first" slogan.

In comments published on Friday, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, warned against the type of European nationalism espoused by Salvini, even evoking German dictator Adolf Hitler's rise to power on the back of a similar ideology.

"I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934 'Us first, We ... We...' These are frightening thoughts," the pope was quoted as saying.

Italy continues to struggle with a budget deficit and huge national debt of more than €2.3 trillion ($2.6 trillion).

The League's popularity with Italian voters could pave the way for it to govern in coalition with the smaller, far-right Brothers of Italy party.

tj/msh (AFP, dpa)