Italy: Ferragosto crisis / News / News agency Inforos
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Italy: Ferragosto crisis

How did the ruling coalition collapse in Italy

Italy: Ferragosto crisis

ITALY – no one has expected a government crisis in the height of the holiday season. Or it was rather assumed that sooner or later the M5S (Movimento 5 Stelle, Five Star Movement) would leave the coalition, unable to resign itself to defeat in the European elections and then in the TAV project discussion (the construction of the Turin-Lyon tunnel – ed. note). It was considered possible that the crisis could have been triggered by Five Star Movement leader Di Mayo to neutralize the discontent within his party, but it appeared impossible that this was done by leader of the League party and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, whose credibility ratings were as steadily growing as those of his party. But the impossible can become reality in the wonderful Italy: right after the crowded rallies in his support at the most popular Italian beaches, the Italian Minister of the Interior and leader of the League decides to abandon the idea of a left-right government in the country.

Many reports appear as a joke: during discussion on a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Conte for his second term, member of the Five Star Movement D'uva dropped the following remark addressing the League representatives: "After how many Mojito cocktails did you come up with arranging a Ferragosto crisis?" (Ferragosto is the traditional holiday period in Italy starting on August 15 – ed. note), alluding to Deputy Prime Minister Salvini's dance and cocktail meetings with voters on the coast of the Romagna province. However, using irony to explain what seems a mistake in assessing Salvini is a heedless idea. After all, without tangible support a politician cannot have his ratings peak or enjoy an increased support percentage (even if it rose due to low voter turnout).

Let's look for other assumptions about the purpose of Salvini's explicit "own goal". Consider the constant EU attacks on Italy over the period between July and August. Brussels was obviously not going to consent to any cut requirement to the general government deficit our country has to submit in the next few months. Salvini realized that the Flat Tax became a Brussels-created obstacle. Di Mayo himself, who had previously talked about a possible percent drop in tax rates, hung out the flag of truce and gave up even on his soft modification of the tax reform after meetings with Economy Minister Giovanni Tria and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. There would be no compromise, especially given that there were over $10 billion lacking to avoid a VAT increase; moreover, M5S would not hear a word of a tax amnesty disguised as "financial peace" idea.

Salvini knew he would have to report back to the electors on this issue, being perfectly aware that when losing to the League after the TAV project is approved and the Salvini's "Security Bis Decree" is adopted, M5S will create insurmountable obstacles to his party on its path towards the tax reform. Probably fearing that he would fail to live up to his promises, Salvini decided to seal the left-right government's fate earlier than expected.

We recommend those believing that he took this step in a state of euphoria on being overconfident in his own popularity, to acquaint themselves with the information from fairly reputable sources from both parties.

According to them, the League leader was convinced that Secretary General of the Democratic Party Nicola Zingaretti would support the idea of elections. The agreement between them seems to have even prompted resistance from President Mattarello, who threatened to dissolve both houses of Parliament. But Matteo Renzi intervened to do his best for a rift with the M5S.

Sources say that Florentine Matteo Renzi (ex-mayor of Florence – ed. note) was ready to announce the withdrawal from the Democratic Party and the creation of a new centrist political association, but Salvini's action made him change his mind. If we have another read of Zingaretti's statements before the crisis, we will see that he was clearly opposed to an alliance with M5S. And still did Renzi one again upset his plans, even realizing that the lifespan of a yellow-red government of this kind would not be long, because it included parliamentarians, who had been exchanging abuse all day long until yesterday.

However, he could not but try this because of the big game of nearly 500 government appointments, many of which would go to his people, because he still had a large number of seats in Parliament and especially in the Senate. By receiving the key positions in the government and approving a budget to avoid a VAT increase, Renzi hopes that he will manage “to do away” with Conte II next year. Thus he seeks to kill two birds with one stone, namely the Democrats and M5S, and consequently undermine Salvini's position in a substantial way.

It seems to be an ideal scenario, but these political games leave the voters' opinion unattended. As shown by the failure of the constitutional referendum arranged by Renzi (during his time as Prime Minister – ed. note), the Italians are not as trustful as before and no longer let anyone to mislead them in the old-fashioned way.

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