Italy Starts Tense Coalition Talks after Prime Minister Conte Quits over ‘Reckless’ Salvini
The Five Stars Movement and the until now opposition Democratic Party are trying to stop Salvini from coming becoming the next Italian Prime Minister.
Italy’s main political parties are beginning talks on forming a new governing coalition after on Tuesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned, ending the short-lived alliance between the leftist populist Five Stars Movement and the far-right League party.
The Conte Cabinet survived for14 months now, with the Prime Minister being a non-partisan figure. The heads of the two coalition partners were the ones with the real power: the left-wing populist Five Stars Movement (M5S) led by Luigi di Maio as the senior partner, and the far-right League party led by Matteo Salvini as the junior partner.
The balance of power in the governing coalition was upset by the 2019 EU elections: while the League won only 17% of the vote in the 2018 Italian elections, in May 2019, its result went up to 34%. The votes of M5S went from 33% in 2018 to 17% in the 2019 EU vote.
Salvini’s growing popularity is seen largely as a result of his hardline anti-immigrant stance, and he has been calling for new general elections, apparently eying the post of Prime Minister. Earlier this month, he declared his ruling coalition with the Five Stars Movement to be dead, and urged a no-confidence vote of the Conte Cabinet.
“Bringing about this governmental crisis is highly irresponsible,” Conte told the Italian Senate upon announcing his resignation, with Salvini looking on right next to him, as cited by Reuters.
“The interior minister has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party. His decisions pose serious risks for this country,” the resigning Prime Minister added.
“I see that the League’s leader Matteo Salvini lacks the courage to take responsibility for his actions. If there’s a lack of courage, don’t worry, I’ll take responsibility before the country that is watching us,” said Conte.
Conte further described Salvini’s actions as reckless and “liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability”.
After the Senate debate Conte handed his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who said he would begin talks with parliamentary groups on Wednesday to see if a new coalition can be formed.
If no new ruling coalition is formed, Mattarella would have to dissolve the Parliament, 3.5 years ahead of schedule, so that early elections could be held in the fall.
The consultations with party delegations start with minor groups at 2 pm GMT on Wednesday, while the main parties will be heard on Thursday.
Salvini reacted to Conte’s accusations by declared that he had no fear for the “Italians’ judgment”.
“I am not afraid. I don’t want Italy to be a slave to anyone, and I don’t want Italy to be given a long chain like a little dog. I don’t want any chain at all,” Salvini declared.
Yet, Salvini might not get the general elections he is hoping for as the Five Stars Movement and the until now opposition center-left Democratic Party are already discussing forming a new ruling coalition.
If their talks bear fruit, Salvini and his League party would end up as the new opposition, instead of becoming the new full-fledged rulers of Italy.
If Italy holds general elections in the fall, that would be a precedent for the period after World War II, since the final months of the year are when the state budget is drawn up, and Italy presently has the EU’s second highest public debt as a share of the GDP, after Greece.
(Banner image: Video grab from France24)