Giuseppe Conte’s government is over. It is a very hot summer in Italy, as the country has to deal with a huge political crisis. One of the two vice prime ministers, Matteo Salvini, decided to put to an end the current ruling coalition. On Tuesday 20th August, the Senate will held a no-confidence vote against the prime minister. The text has been submitted by Salvini himself since he doesn’t trust the chief of the government any longer.
The two ruling parties – Matteo Salvini’s The League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five Stars Movement (M5S) – had their last quarrel on the project for the high speed train that should link Turin and Lyon. The Movement asked the Senate to reject the project (which is part of the EU TEN-T corridors), while the League voted together with the opposition parties against the Movement. According to the leaders of both ruling parties, such a divergence within the government coalition is a clear sign of the impossibility to go on.
But there are real reasons of the crisis is Europe. As already written on this blog, it was the vote on Ursula von der Leyen to mark the beginning of the end for the Italian government. Salvini admitted in a tweet: “When the Five Stars Movement voted for von der Leyen as president of the European Commission we understood that the line was crossed”, he explained the Italians.
So Italy collapsed because of the next president of the European Commission. There is clear a different approach on EU affairs, despite the Five Stars be anti-system. Nevertheless so far the Movement wants to keep going working, while the League is calling for new elections.
No time for new elections
Salvini believes to have the country in his hands. He called Italians to give him “full powers” in order to close the national ports to migrants and challenge the European Union. He is trying to benefit from polls suggesting that in case of quick elections the League would get 38% of consent. But the point is time and timing.
In case of crisis the president of the Republic starts to explore whether a new majority can be found within the Parliament in order to allow the country to go on. In case no alternative majority is found, then the president of the Republic can dissolve the Parliament and call for new elections.
By Constitution, new elections must be held within at least 45 days from the dissolution of the Parliament, and not beyond 70 days after the end of the legislature. It means for Italy the risk of new elections in mid October. By 15 October Italy is expected to produce and submit to Brussels the new budgetary law. Calling for new elections would mean not having the time to work on the bill.
Other two options are therefore on the table. The first one is a different majority (M5S- Democratic Party – extreme left) until the end of the year, in order to produce the budgetary law. The second option is a Cabinet of experts, a non-political government backed by parliamentary groups.
New elections would harm Italy and Italians seriously. In case of no budgetary law, an automatic raise of VAT would be triggered. The so-called “safeguard clauses” introduced to keep the fiscal path under control foresee a 3% increase starting from 2020. The VAT increase would lead to a contraction in consumption estimated between €11 and €18 billion. Not a good news for the Italian economy.
“Salvini didn’t betray the Movement or the prime minister Conte, Salvini betrayed million of Italians”, Di Maio complained. “Salvini has been repeating that he didn’t pay attention to polls. He betrayed the ruling pact for his personal interests”.
Italy to lose the commissioner
The political crisis triggered by Salvini is already having repercussions on the not easy game for a post in the next EU Commission. Because of the domestic affairs, the country is not working to secure a prominent seat in the executive body of the European Union. In other words, the Italian European Commissioner will have a secondary role if the government doesn’t work as it should. But everything is stopped by the political crisis, the request for new elections and the quarrels between parties. In normal times the League would have the right to indicate the commissioner for Italy, but it is no time for normal times in the “Belpaese”.