Giuseppe Conte resigned as Italian prime minister on Tuesday, hoping to be granted a fresh mandate by the head of state to form a new government after a coalition rupture last week left him without a majority in the Senate.
President Sergio Mattarella is expected to hold two days of formal consultations with all the parties this week before deciding what to do next. Here are possible scenarios.
Conte continues, Renzu goes
Mattarella will most likely give Conte the first opportunity to forge a new government and will probably allow him a few days to see whether he can find a solid majority in parliament.
Conte could try to convince a group of centrist and unaligned senators to join the government's ranks, replacing those of former premier Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva party which caused the crisis when it quit the ruling coalition.
Conte has tried to do this since Renzi's walkout, without any apparent success, but formal consultations will give him more time and room for manoeuvre to offer them government positions and policy concessions.
Conte and Renzi patch things up
Alternatively, Renzi could return to the fold, agreeing to back Conte again in return for a new policy platform and a cabinet reshuffle giving him more influence. For this to happen both men would need to eat humble pie after strongly criticising each other during the coalition rupture. Moreover, the largest ruling party, the 5-Star Movement, has ruled out forming a new government with Renzi.
Conte goes, Renzi returns
If Conte fails to rebuild his majority, the coalition that backed him (the Democratic Party, 5-Star, the leftist LEU and Italia Viva) might agree among themselves to choose a new prime minister, possibly getting support from centrist lawmakers who were unwilling to back Conte.
National Unity Government
If Conte fails, Mattarella might seek to put together a broad, cross-party coalition including both the ruling parties and those from the rightist opposition alliance led by Matteo Salvini's League. This would probably be led by an unaffiliated technocrat such as former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. Most parties across the political spectrum are currently ruling out this option.
Another option sometimes mooted is a new coalition, conceivably led by Conte, formed of the parties that backed his government plus 4-times prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative Forza Italia party. This "Ursula government" would be made up of the main Italian parties that voted for Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission. However, it would require Berlusconi to break ranks with the centre-right bloc, something he has shown no willingness to do. 5-Star has also always refused to countenance governing with Forza Italia.
If all the options above prove enviable, Mattarella would be forced to dissolve parliament and call elections two years ahead of schedule, in the midst of the coronaries pandemic and as Italy is struggling to put together a Recovery Plan it must present to the European Commission to obtain more than 200 billion euros ($242.76 billion) of EU help to support its virus-battered economy. The centre-right, which leads in the polls, is calling for elections, while 5-Star and the PD say they do not fear them and they cannot be ruled out.