The heads of Italy’s political groups will decide on Monday when to hold a no-confidence vote, days after nationalist leader Matteo Salvini announced he was pulling the plug on the populist coalition government.
Mr Salvini wants snap elections, but faces a challenge from his ex-coalition partner and the opposition centre left.
Ex-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is calling for a caretaker government.
A final decision on the next step rests with the president.
Mr Salvini’s nationalist League party has been in government with the populist Five Star Movement for the past 14 months, but relations between the parties have turned sour. The government is headed by an independent prime minister, Giuseppe Conte.
The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) were voted out of government last year.
Now, ex-PD leader Matteo Renzi has returned to the political arena with a call to stop Mr Salvini’s “crazy” push for elections by proposing a caretaker, “institutional” government backed by parliament.
Five Star leader Luigi di Maio, who has seen his party ratings eclipsed by the rise of the League, is also opposed to new elections, insisting that reform of parliament has to come first.
Some Five Star colleagues have indicated they are not averse to forming a coalition with the centre left. “Having ruled with the League, I think we’d even agree to a deal with Beelzebub,” leading Five Star official Roberta Lombardi told La Repubblica.
But there is one big sticking point. Centre-left leader Nicola Zingaretti has thrown cold water on the idea and placed his trust in President Sergio Mattarella to find a way out of the impasse.