ROME (AP) — Italy's premier insists his squabbling coalition will last three more years, even after a minister recently quit in protest.
Premier Giuseppe Conte also told reporters Saturday that his government will soon embark on an ambitious reform program. The reforms will include streamlining bureaucracy and fighting tax evasion to lower the tax burden on the middle class that is struggling amid a stagnant economy.
“If we don't want the country to go bankrupt, it's clear to everyone that we must work in a serious, rational, credible" way to combat endemic tax evasion, he said.
Conte brushed off talk that his government, which took office in September, could implode.
Plagued by infighting in the main party, the populist 5-Star Movement, and among leaders of the Democratic Party, the other key coalition member, the government's staying power has been questioned.
Conte warned coalition party leaders against getting mired in polemics. He approved “lively debate but not squabbling for squabbling's sake."
He predicted that voters would punish the ruling center-left forces if they brought down the government in hopes of triggering new elections merely for political advantage.
Conte also ruled out heading any new party, saying that would only further confuse Italy's already fragmented political forces.
Parliament's term runs out in early 2023.
Opinion polls show Conte is one of Italy's most admired leaders since he first became premier a year-and-a-half ago in an earlier coalition that paired the 5-Stars with the rival right-wing League led by anti-migrant proponent Matteo Salvini.