Italy’s political leaders split over crisis vote

Europe

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionMatteo Salvini called for a quick break with coalition partner Five Star last week

The heads of Italy’s political groups have failed to reach agreement on when to hold a vote of no confidence, amid a government crisis triggered by nationalist leader Matteo Salvini.

Mr Salvini pulled the plug on his populist coalition and now wants an urgent confidence vote and elections.

The next step will now be decided by a full Senate session on Tuesday.

Mr Salvini’s ex-coalition partner has accused him of betraying the electorate after 14 months of government.

Luigi di Maio’s Five Star movement took power with the nationalist League in June 2018, but the relationship has since soured and the League’s poll ratings have risen dramatically.

The government is headed by an independent prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and a no-confidence vote would bring him down.

The Senate will now have to decide whether to call a vote for Wednesday, or wait until 20 August, when Mr Conte would be asked to report to parliament.

How soon will elections happen?

The League leader may be leading the opinion polls but he does not command a majority in the Senate, so his attempt to force snap elections as early as October may founder.

He faces opposition from Mr Di Maio and also the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which was voted out of government last year.

Ex-PD leader Matteo Renzi has returned to the political arena with a call to stop Mr Salvini’s “crazy” push for elections by proposing a caretaker, “institutional” government backed by parliament. But Mr Di Maio has refused to work with him, saying “nobody wants to sit at the table with Renzi”.

The Five Star leader Luigi di Maio insists that reform of parliament has to come before elections. He wants to bring down the number of seats in Italy’s two chambers of parliament by 345 (out of 945) before new elections. The centre left could in principle allow that to happen.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Renzi has plenty of support on the centre left but his intervention risks a split

Some Five Star colleagues have indicated they are not averse to forming a coalition with the centre left. “Having ruled with the League, I think we’d even agree to a deal with Beelzebub,” leading Five Star official Roberta Lombardi told La Repubblica.

Then there is the issue of Italy’s budget deficit. The Rome government has until the end of October to submit its 2020 budget to the European Commission.

Both Five Star and Matteo Renzi are desperate to avoid an increase in sales tax, which would come into place in January if a budget is not agreed.

A League official said on Monday that instead of implementing an increase in sales tax, it would raise Italy’s budget deficit to 2.8% of economic output.

What is Salvini’s next step?

To stand any chance of forming a government Mr Salvini would need the support of Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia as well as the far-right Brothers of Italy party.

Mr Salvini has returned from a campaign tour of beaches in Sicily to rally support in Rome and to meet Mr Berlusconi and Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni.

Only the president, currently on holiday on a boat in Sardinia, has the power to dissolve parliament. He has insisted next year’s budget has to be approved this autumn, so the window for an election is very small.

Leave a Reply