MILAN (AP) — Italy’s government is facing a challenge from within after former Premier Matteo Renzi instructed lawmakers from his small party to vote against a judicial reform and told ministers to boycott a Cabinet meeting.

Renzi’s actions threatened to plunge into crisis the five-month-old coalition government, which comprises the 5-Star Movement, the Democratic Party and Renzi’s small Italia Viva party. Renzi formed the party last year after breaking with the Democratic Party, which he headed during his nearly three-year stint as premier.

As tensions increased throughout the day Thursday, Premier Giuseppe Conte accused Renzi of being a “rude opposition,” while Renzi said he was ready to break with the government.

“You cannot say we are a rude opposition, because if we are the opposition, then you don’t have a majority,” Renzi said in a Facebook video. “If you want to create another government, we won’t get in your way. We will never be the ones who hold on to Cabinet positions and give up our dignity.”

Conte told a press conference late Thursday after the Cabinet approved judicial reforms aimed at shortening Italy’s notoriously lengthy judicial process that he was taken aback by Renzi’s decision to withdraw support for the measure.

A Democratic Party senator, Valeria Fedeli, said Renzi’s decision to keep his ministers away from the Cabinet meeting, instead of seeking to negotiate any changes, was a clear sign of an “institutional tear.”


‘’If you abandon the table, that means there are no longer the conditions to continue,’’ Fedeli said on SkyTG24.

The move comes as Italy faces another spate of bad economic news. Italy’s statistics agency this week reported that industrial production in December dropped 4.3% from a year earlier.

The current government was formed in September after the previous one collapsed when former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, in a failed bid to take power, yanked his right-wing League’s support for a coalition with the 5-Star Movement.