Italy: Conte calls on “pro-Europeans” to save his government

In the midst of the health crisis, which justified new restrictive measures this weekend, the coalition government, in business since September 2019, is threatened with collapse after the resignation of two ministers and a secretary of state of Italy Viva, a small formation led by the former chief executive Matteo Renzi (2014-2016).

During an intervention in the Chamber of Deputies, where his coalition partners, the Democratic Party (PD, center-left) and the 5 Star Movement (M5S, anti-system) have the majority, Giuseppe Conte defended his record and lashed out at his former ally Renzi, implying that it would be difficult for him to form a reshuffled government with him.

In the evening, the deputies voted as expected confidence in the government, but the real test will take place this Tuesday, when the President of the Council will appear in the Senate for a high-risk vote: without the 18 elected representatives of Italia Viva, his government no longer has a majority.

“Let us say it frankly: we cannot erase the past. It is time to turn the page”, had declared earlier Giuseppe Conte, masked, at the tribune of the chamber. “This country deserves a united government that works full time for the well-being of its citizens.”

He then asked for “clear and transparent support” from all the deputies who “identify with the base of the noblest European, liberal, popular and socialist traditions”, indirectly raising the specter of sovereignists coming to power. “To all those who have the destiny of Italy at heart, I say: help us!” Mr. Conte said.

Three scenarios

In fact, the alliance between the right of Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia) and the extreme right – the League of Matteo Salvini and Fratelli d’Italia of Georgia Meloni – is widely favored in the event of early legislative elections.

These three formations blasted Monday “the absolute inability of the government to face both the health consequences and the economic effects of the pandemic”. “A government with a narrow or no majority is not what Italy needs to face the difficult challenges of the coming months,” they wrote in a joint statement.

If Matteo Renzi made the commitment that his troops would abstain in the Senate, the support of Giuseppe Conte will have to be counted and the chief executive is not sure of being able to maintain himself if his majority turns out to be too narrow.

In this case, three scenarios emerge: the PD and the M5S could come to terms with Renzi and form a reshuffled government, with or without Conte at its head.

A grand coalition could also emerge, led by an institutional, non-partisan figure. Finally, in the event of an impasse, legislative elections would be called.

Lost popularity

Renzi opposes Conte on the substance of the 222.9 billion euro stimulus package drawn from the 750 billion euro mega-plan adopted in the summer of 2020 by European leaders, of which Italy is the main beneficiary.

He accuses him of aligning himself with the M5S and “squandering public money” by granting tax rebates and ad hoc aid for electoral reasons instead of taking advantage of this manna to invest and reform structurally.

“The Recovery plan [nom du plan de relance] is still not satisfactory (…). Everyone agrees on the need for a unifying dream for the country, not a hunt for votes in parliament “, hammered Mr. Renzi Monday on his website.

He also calls for recourse to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a fund intended for euro-zone countries in difficulty.

Mr. Renzi further complains of not being listened to by Giuseppe Conte and calls for more weight in his government. To the bone in the polls with 3% of voting intentions in the event of early legislative elections, he has almost nothing to lose.

A bet criticized by part of the Italian press who accuses Matteo Renzi of wanting to derail the executive while the country faces the pandemic which has already killed more than 82,000 people, coupled with the most serious recession since the post-war period.

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