American Politics kept us glued to our preferred source of information, whther iPhone or the traditional TV, we spent days on end watching or reading the news.
In the meantime in Italy we had our own political dramas. A government crisis is nothing new, and this one was brewing for the past month or two. Below are some Q&A about our Made in Italy crisis:
In short, there was a clash between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Matteo Renzi a former PM with a lot of nostalgia for the baton of command.
Matteo Renzi in 2016 resigned as PM; he had gambled, a-la-David Cameron, by saying that he would resigned if the Referendum he promoted would have come up negatively. It did. The referendum was about limiting the number of Senators; there are 315 Senators in the Italian Senate, compared with the 100 Senators in the US Senate, the referendum had its merits. The vote was clearly against Renzi himself.
Renzi had withdrawn his (rather new) party called “Italia Viva” (Italy Alive!) a delegation from the government: it was made up of two ministers Family and Equal Opportunities and Agricultural Policies, as well as an Undersecretary.
Not that many but enogh to open a political crisis. Renzi said that his party would no longer support this government (read Conte), unless there were major changes (in his dreams himself as PM).
The PM still has the support of the 5 Star Movement and the Democratic Party—although he is not publicly aligned with none of the two—these two are the main shareholders of the government. Conte needs now to convince at least a dozen senators who are currently in the opposition to join the majority, and therefore keeping the government up and running without Matteo Renzi.
The Good Question
What motivated Renzi’s rebellion?
There are explicit and declared reasons: Renzi let everyone know his dissatisfaction with Conte and his government, the management of the pandemic, the plan to manage the European funds of the Recovery Fund, the unavailability to access the ESM credit line, and other minor issues.
Renzi’s version, in short, is: Conte is managing the pandemic badly, and it is necessary to replace him to make a government that manages it better.
I’m dying to ask him to name which state managed the pandemic well!
And then there is a whole series of other more implicit reasons, some altogether evident and others more hidden and subject to interpretation.
There are Renzi’s well-known intolerance towards Conte, and Renzi’s equally well-known tendency to organize plots that give rise to or end governments, from that of Enrico Letta in 2014 to the current one, which contributed decisively to creating in the summer of 2019.
His party, Italia Viva, in the polls has a marginal consensus, between 3% to 4%, and many have interpreted this operation as an attempt by Renzi to gain more importance in the government. It was not clear what Mr. Renzi expected from the current evolution of the crisis.
In the Meantime
Conte is searching for Senators willing to cross the aisle to join and support the government so that it will continue. There should be no problems in the Lower Chamber because there is a majority even without the 30 deputies of Italia Viva.
The problem is the Senate, where the PM needs about a dozen senators to be on his side. Eventually there will be a vote: if the government gets the majority, the crisis will probably end. Else, Conte will have to resign formally opening the government crisis.
ConTe = WithYou
Who is with whom? The M5S stays with Conte, and so is the Democratic party; as they deem Italia Viva to be unreliable.
Peace for Conte and Renzi
This seems still unchartered waters. Just a week ago, the clash between Conte and Renzi seemed inevitable; But Wednesday, Conte had used conciliatory tones and proposed a peaceful resolution of the crisis; On Thursday, the leaders of Renzi made a 180 degrees turn and said that all in all they could still remain in the majority if certain conditions were guaranteed.
In short: it seems unlikely at the moment, but who knows.
How about the parties of the right? Brothers of Italy party has a consensus in the polls much higher than that obtained in the latest elections (mostly disgrunted voters from the Lega party), and therefore pushes for early voting. The Lega is also calling for elections. while Forza Italia fears that they would loose from an early vote (and so will the Lega! in my opinion). But more than putting pressure on the government, Giorgia Meloni, Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi can’t do much.
Some Important Details
In the next months who will govern will influence how the over 200 billion of the Recovery Fund will be spent until 2027. While in January 2022 Parliament will elect the President of the Republic: currently to elect the President could be the PD and the M5S. With an early vote, the choice would probably go to the center-right.
Moreover, it was recently decided—via referendum—that in the next elections the elected deputies (Representatives) will go from 630 to 400 and senators from 315 to 200. It means that a good part of the current parliamentarians will not be there in the next legislature.
Obviously, not many are happy with the prospect of early elections, especially the M5S and Forza Italia (Berlusconi, who is very old and sick right now), and in my view, even Mr. Salvini lost a lot of his appeal lately, especially with his imprudent support of the latest Trump’s braveries.
It is All in the Senate
If the Senate won’t support Conte, he will have to go to the Quirinale to resign. At that point President Mattarella would in all likelihood look for another person to form a new government, capable of obtaining as large a majority as possible, perhaps even involving a piece of the center-right, in addition to PD, M5S, and the center.
There are many possibilities: it could be a political, technical or institutional government. If he fails, he should dissolve the chambers and call early elections, probably in June.
After that it will all be the same as before!