Italy faces a government crisis after its interior minister Matteo Salvini called for a new election.
Mr Salvini, of the right-wing League party, said his party’s coalition with the populist 5-Star Movement had collapsed over policy differences.
Mr Salvini urged Italy’s prime minister to verify whether the coalition still had a governing majority in parliament.
The ruling two parties have been at odds recently over a host of policy issues but tensions spiralled on Wednesday after the senate rejected a move by the 5-Stars to kill an EU-funded high-speed rail link with neighbouring France.
The massive infrastructure project – known in Italy as TAV – was backed by the League and sought to improve rail links across several European nations.
As tones hardened, Mr Salvini met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. After the meeting, Mr Salvini issued a statement saying the TAV vote clearly showed that the ruling coalition had collapsed and called for a speedy election.
“Let’s go immediately to the parliament and verify that there is no longer a majority, as was evident in the vote on the TAV, and quickly return the word to voters,” Mr Salvini said.
Mr Conte was expected to seek a confidence vote in parliament and if the government lost, that would set the stage for a new election.
Parliament has adjourned for its summer break and would need to be recalled. In the case of a no-confidence vote, it is up to Italy’s president to call a new election.
The 5-Star leader, Luigi Di Maio, responded to Mr Salvini’s statement by saying his populist party was ready to go to a new election. But he sought to put it off, saying an election should not happen until after parliament gave its final approval to a reform reducing the number of MPs in a vote scheduled for early September.
Earlier, the League issued a statement complaining of deadlock with the 5-Star Movement on a variety of issues, saying “it is useless to go on” adding that “the only alternative to this government” is for a new election.