Serhat TUNAR -TDO- Luigi di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, a coalition partner in Italy, has announced he is stepping down from the party leadership.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Maio said: "I am here today to hand in my resignation as head of the Five Star Movement."

Maio, 33, said Vito Crimi, head of the party's Home Affairs Committee, will remain party leadership for an interim period until a new leader is elected.

Candidates named for the new leadership at the party congress, expected in March, include Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli.

The Five Star Movement, which achieved great success in the 2018 general election with 33 percent of the vote, had formed a coalition with Matteo Salvini's Northern League party. Upon Salvini's departure from the Coalition, The Five Star Movement later formed a coalition with the Democratic Party.

The party, which lost votes during both coalition periods, has fallen to 15 per cent in the latest polls.

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