ROME — Italy on Friday rapidly edged closer to an early election that could move the country farther to the right amid political uncertainty and concerns that the country’s already fraught relations with the European Union could suffer.

Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, whose right-wing League party is the junior coalition member, announced he would no longer support Premier Giuseppe Conte’s 14-month-old populist government.

Pushing his anti-immigration agenda, Salvini is already unofficially campaigning to be the next premier. Although no new election date has been set, and the Italian president hasn’t indicated if or when he will dissolve Parliament, a return to the ballot box could come as early as late October.

A campaign and vote this fall would play out just as the Italian government, with Parliament’s support, hammers out a new budget to meet European Union rules. There are already concerns the government might have to hike taxes to cover populist spending aimed at pleasing voter constituencies.

“Salvini fires Conte: ‘Let’s Vote,’” was Italian daily La Stampa’s terse summation of the government crisis sparked by the League leader.

Conte demanded late Thursday that Salvini, who is also interior minister, lay out his reasons in Parliament for refusing to back the government he helped form after 2018 elections that brought populists to power for the first time in Italy.

Salvini wants to capitalize on soaring popularity seen in opinion polls.

Frances D’Emilio is an Associated Press writer.