(Bloomberg) -- Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria has complained that he is the victim of one ambush after another as his position in the government is called into question amid tensions with populist leaders over a spending spree to fund election policies, according to newspaper Il Giornale.
Il Giornale cited a text message which it said Tria, 70, sent his friend Renato Brunetta of the center-right Forza Italia party. Tria’s office and Brunetta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I can’t take it any more, I’m subjected to one ambush after another,” Tria was quoted as saying. “The last one was sending me before the parliamentary committee on my return from Ecofin. The only thing that interests me is saving the country. That is my light. Otherwise, if it was just up to me, already ...” Ecofin is the meeting of European Union finance ministers.
Il Giornale said the message did not use the word resignation. But several Italian newspapers reported Friday that Tria’s job was in doubt, as he pushes for caution on next year’s budget in a clash with deputy premiers Matteo Salvini of the anti-migration League and Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
Di Maio voiced support for Tria, saying in an interview with Radio24 that he had “full confidence” in the minister. Di Maio said Tria is carrying out budget negotiations with European commissioners Valdis Dombrovskis and Pierre Moscovici, while Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is pursuing talks with commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.
Tensions in the coalition have reached a new high as Conte and Tria seek to persuade Salvini and Di Maio to dilute or delay landmark election pledges -- welfare benefits for the poor, for Five Star, and a lower retirement age, for the League -- ahead of a new budget offer to Juncker expected Tuesday.
Tria has long pushed for a deficit target below 2 percent, and for a conciliatory approach to the commission, according to government officials who declined to be named discussing confidential negotiations. The commission has rejected a deficit target of 2.4 percent for next year and could eventually fine Italy.
Both Conte and Di Maio want Tria to step down, possibly in January after the budget has been approved by parliament, while Salvini is unconvinced, according to newspaper La Stampa. Newspaper Corriere della Sera speculated on the possibility of a resignation as soon as next week.
Tria has no intention of stepping aside, La Repubblica reported. The paper quoted him as saying: “I wouldn’t have reasons to quit, especially now that the government is reaching the positions I have always expressed.”
The government is in the meantime pushing the budget through parliament, and has called a confidence vote in the lower house expected to take place late Friday. Confidence votes are often used in Italy to ensure legislation is passed. The budget would then go to the Senate, where it is likely to be amended, and then back to the lower house for final approval.
(Adds Di Maio remarks in fifth paragraph.)
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