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Italy's Renzi threatens government with no-confidence motion in 5-Star minister

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday threatened a no-confidence motion against his own justice minister, posing a fresh risk to the survival of the fractious ruling coalition.

FILE PHOTO: Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures as he speaks during a session of the upper house of parliament over the ongoing government crisis, in Rome, Italy August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Renzi’s small centrist Italia Viva party is in the coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), but he has constantly taken issue with government policies since it was formed in September last year.

The latest long-running dispute involves the statute of limitations, which wipes out trials if a verdict is not reached within a set limit.

5-Star and the PD have a agreed a reform of the time limits and plan to push it through parliament with a vote of confidence, triggering the wrath of Renzi, who opposes the reform.

A confidence vote, used by governments to force legislation through parliament by truncating debate and sweeping away opposition amendments, would prevent any attempt by Italia Viva to block the reform.

“If there is a call for a confidence vote in the government, Italia Viva will present a motion of no-confidence against (Justice Minister Alonso) Bonafede,” Italia Viva said in a statement.

Bonafede is from the 5-Star Movement, with whom Renzi has particularly fraught relations, and his move sharply intensifies the level of internal coalition conflict.

“A no-confidence motion against minister Bonafede means a no-confidence motion against the whole government,” 5-Star lower-house leader Davide Crippa said in a statement.

During its previous coalition with the far-right League, 5-Star approved a law to scrap time limits for the prosecution of most crimes after a first judgement has been reached.

5-Star and the PD agreed to amend this to scrap the time limits only for those found guilty in a first trial, but Renzi wants to restore the old statute of limitations.

Renzi’s party said it would present its no-confidence motion in Bonafede in the Senate, where on paper it would be likely to pass because the coalition has only a slim majority in the upper house even with Renzi’s backing.

Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Toby Chopra