Italy was plunged into crisis earlier this week after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte sensationally resigned with a scorching attack on interior minister Mr Salvini – the leader of the right-wing Lega Party. Anna Nadibaidze of the Open Europe think tank said: “Recent events bring a new degree of political uncertainty in Italy, which was arguably unnecessary given the timing, specifically the importance of passing a budget for next year that respects EU budgetary rules, as well as difficult relations with Brussels in general.
This would lead to even more confrontation between Rome (a founding member) and Brussels, and more uncertainty at a time when the EU has to deal with its new institutional cycle, Brexit and its next long-term budget
“A snap election is not a guaranteed outcome if the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, decides there is a majority for an alternative government or if there could be a temporary technical administration to deal with budget issues and then hold an election in the spring of 2020.
“However, if an election happens in the autumn, as Salvini has expected when he pulled the plug on the government, the possibility of a right-wing government led by Lega is highly probable, given the party’s position in recent polls.
“This would lead to even more confrontation between Rome (a founding member) and Brussels, and more uncertainty at a time when the EU has to deal with its new institutional cycle, Brexit and its next long-term budget.”
Lego, which gained 23 seats in the European Parliamentary elections in May – has been riding high in the polls in recent months – although a survey published today by the Tecne agency – the first since the crisis began – had the League’s support falling, at 31.3%, with the Progressive Democrats and 5SM both gaining ground, on 24.6 percent and 20.8 percent respectively.
Mr Salvini was characteristically defiant in the face of the criticism – but his falling out with coalition partners Five Star Movement (5SM) has triggered talk of a behind-the-scenes deal to prevent him becoming Prime Minister.
Mr Mattarella, the country’s head of state, yesterday said several of Italy’s parties had told him they needed more time to resolve a government crisis and avoid a snap election, and that he had told them to report back on Tuesday.
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Mr Conte’s resignation was triggered by Mr Salvini’s announcement that his coalition with 5SM was no longer workable because of their reluctance to agree an austerity-busting budget in defiance of Brussels.
Consequently, he demanded an early election – but Mr Mattarella, who is the only official with authority to dissolve the country’s legislature, said such a decision which should not be taken lightly.
Meanwhile, Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party yesterday set tough new conditions for forming a coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, making a deal between the traditional foes look more elusive and raising the chance of snap elections.
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Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr Mattarella, 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio made no reference to the PD.
However, he made it clear his party was keen to avoid another election – a year after the last one.
He said: “In recent hours all the necessary contacts have been launched to find a solid parliamentary majority.”
Mr Di Maio added that he had handed Mr Mattarella a list of 10 reforms which needed completing before Parliament should be dissolved.
Many of these, ranging from an investment plan for the poor south of the country to legislation on conflicts of interests and to speed up the justice system, have always been among 5-Star’s flagship policies.
For his part, Mr Salvini hinted at a possible change of heart – while claiming his former coalition partner of a budget climbdown.
Mr Salvini said: “We want Italians to decide through an election, but since the 5Stars have now U-turned on many of their red lines.
“If they are willing to move forward with this coalition, with a new and improved team to pass ambitious budget legislation without being limited by Brussels’ impositions, then we can discuss renewing our partnership.
“Luigi Di Maio has worked well and in the interests of this country – if he wants to relaunch the government and relaunch the country we are ready, without any prejudice.”
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