Government crisis in italy: rome argues over timetable

The right-wing Lega wants rapid new elections. Five Stars, PD and the left-wing LeU are opposed. The Senate will decide on Tuesday evening.

If Matteo Salvini gets his way, a right-wing alliance could soon come to power Photo: reuters

Immediate new elections? Or a new government, supported by a new majority in the current parliament? This question is dominating the debate between Italy’s parties after Lega leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini broke with the coalition and tabled a vote of no confidence in the government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

If Salvini has his way, Italians will be called to the polls immediately, for an October deadline. "A government of yes" is what the country needs, against all the no’s of the previous coalition partners from the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S – 5-Star Movement), he proclaims. A government that lowers taxes and pushes ahead with major infrastructure projects, a government that accepts a higher deficit, even against the guidelines from Brussels, in order to stimulate the economy, Salvini said. The formation of a new government, consisting of M5S and the moderate left opposition party Partito Democratico (PD), can only be explained by the fact that these forces are "clinging to their seats.

Just how much of a hurry Salvini is in was evident on Monday at the meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary groups in the Senate. There, the Lega requested that the Senate be recalled from vacation for the no-confidence vote as early as Wednesday. It received support from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI) and the radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia (FdI).

But a majority of M5S, PD and the radical left Liberi e Uguali (LeU) list opposed it. Now the Senate itself must decide when the debate on the Conte government will run: Senate President Elisabetta Casellati convened the House with a questionable procedural decision already for Tuesday, 6 p.m., to decide on the further calendar.

The prospect: a majority for the right

Italy’s newspapers are speculating vigorously as to whether the two blocs that will then face each other in the procedural debate – here the right-wing camp of Lega, Forza Italia and FdI, there M5S, PD and LeU – are already shaping up to form more far-reaching alliances. For the right, the question has already been answered: Salvini, whose Lega is polling at up to 38 percent, has held out the prospect of a joint candidacy for FI and FdI. FI is currently polling at around 6 to 7 percent, while FdI is estimated at up to 8 percent. A clear majority for the right and sufficient seats for the junior partners of the Lega are in sight.

For this very reason, the PD and the M5S are raising their voices against immediate elections. Matteo Renzi, of all people, PD chairman until 2018, is drumming up support for an emergency government. This government should approve the 2020 state budget and the reduction in the size of parliament pushed for by the M5S. Renzi, however, had until a few days ago sharply rejected any PD dialogue with the M5S; indeed, he had threatened to split the party if current PD leader Nicola Zingaretti opened up to the Five Stars. Now he is again threatening a split – in case the opening fails to materialize.

Renzi proclaims that Italy needs to be saved. But his reasons are not so noble. Currently, the majority of senators and deputies are loyal to him, having compiled his party’s electoral lists before the 2018 elections. In the event of new elections, his wing would lose influence drastically. In addition, Renzi is said to want to found his own party in the coming months – elections in October would also come too soon for this project. To prevent those, he nevertheless threatened behind the scenes to split and found the new force "Azione civile" (Civic Action).

Renzi was promptly turned down by the M5S. "New vultures" sees Five Star founder Beppe Grillo circling in a blog entry on Monday. It was clear to everyone: he meant Renzi. And M5S leader Luigi Di Maio declared he would "not sit down at the table with Renzi." With Zingaretti as PD leader, however, he might.

PD leader Zingaretti: There is no way around new elections

The situation of the M5S is currently somewhat desperate. Instead of the 33 percent of March 2018, the movement can only expect 15 to 17 percent, and instead of around 300, it would only have around 120 parliamentarians. And many of the previous deputies and senators would not even be allowed to run again because of the M5S’s internal restriction to two legislative periods. This in itself increases the desire for a new government with the PD.

Its leader Zingaretti had announced in recent days that there was no way around new elections. An interim M5S-PD government, which would then have to pass an austerity budget in the fall, would be "an enormous gift to Salvini," who could brand the coalition as an "alliance of losers" and head for a landslide victory in the next elections.

But now Zingaretti is also talking about President Sergio Mattarella setting the course in the end. In the PD, his supporters are going one step further. In the meantime, they are talking about a "government of the legislature," which means that it could be in office until 2023.

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