Italian Frenzy

By Domitilla De Luca Bossa

 

Brace yourselves.

This is going to be a long article, and it has plot twists like in Designated Survivor.

Events as of Tuesday 29th of May at 19:00.

If you do not know what is happening in Italy, you just need to open the first page of any international newspaper. You will find pictures of Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella under headlines screaming of the Italian institutional crisis. Right now the atmosphere is hectic: there is no government, the public opinion is divided and we may go back to elections soon. To understand the current situation it is necessary to start from the beginning. If you know it already, skip to Part II.

 

Part I: Election Day

On the 4th of March 2018, Italian citizens were called to the voting ballots to elect the new members of Parliament. As Italy is a Parliamentary Republic, this means that the party (or parties) that would obtain the majority of the votes would take on the executive power in their hands. (You know it, but just to make sure)

In the late evening of the very same day the results showed a fragmentation hard to reconcile. The main party was the “Movimento 5 stelle” (5 stars movement) dominating the South with 32% of votes. Nevertheless, the highest result as a coalition was scored by the right wing “Lega Nord” (“Northern League”) with 17,4% votes, “Forza Italia” with 14% and “Fratelli d’Italia” with 4,35%, for a total of 35% of the votes in the Chamber of Deputies and a similar result in the Senate. The “Partito Democratico” (Democratic Party), which had been at the government until then, received around the 18% of the preferences.

At that point a complicated situation was on the horizon. Given that none of the parties had reached the 40% required to hold the majority of the seats (as for the recently passed electoral law), it was necessary to form a coalition that would guarantee a parliamentary majority to set up the new government. The matching game begun and parties that had said the worse of each other suddenly started to ventilate the hypothesis of improbable alignments to form the executive.

This was done both among themselves and through consultations with the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, who has the duty by Constitution to name the Prime Minister after hearing all the parties elected. President Mattarella gave two “explorative mandates” to Maria Elisabetta Casellati, and then to Roberto Fico, who have been recently elected President of the Senate and of the Chamber of Deputies by the Parliament, aimed at giving them the chance to negotiate a deal between the political forces and come up with a list of ministers for his approval. Both attempts failed and Italy, 2 months after the elections, was still missing its government.

Part II: Towards a government

Pictured Left: Matteo Salvini, Right: Luigi Di Maio

 

The turning point arrived on the 9th of May, when Luigi di Maio, leader of the Movimento 5 stelle and Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega Nord formed an alliance and started to write a joint program for the “Governo del Cambiamento” (Government of change), aimed to change the situation of Italian politics.

Everyone was asking the same question: who would become PM? The young Southern Italian Luigi Di Maio or the Northern Italian Matteo Salvini?

As a surprise, neither.

Giuseppe Conte, a Law Professor who had not been a candidate in the elections, was designated by the two parties as their PM. On the 23rd of May President Mattarella gave him the explorative mandate, and Conte started working on the list of ministers together with the M5S and NL. The public debate was stirred on on one name, that of Paolo Savona, a former minister contested for his negative views on Eurozone.

On Sunday 27th of May Conte was expected to present the list of Ministers to Mattarella for final approval. Voices said that Di Maio and Salvini had conferred with the President on the same day, in a peculiar circumstance not foreseen by the protocol.

 

Pictured: The President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella

 

Journalists were at the Palace of the President, waiting for the words that would give the start to the new government, but they were to be surprised. In the same moments in fact Matteo Salvini was speaking In Terni, in a fashion that resembled the beginning of a new electoral campaign. Few minutes later, Conte appeared to the journalists declaring that he had done whatever he could to form a government together with the support of M5S and NL, but that his explorative mandate had been terminated.

All eyes turned to the President of the Republic Mattarella, who spoke shortly after the former designated PM and in the exact same moment when Luigi Di Maio was expressing his resentment for the failure of this attempt through a Facebook live. Mattarella appeared strict as he affirmed that he had terminated Conte’s explorative mandate because of the nomination of Savona, whose ministry, according to the President, would have led to the inevitable withdrawal of Italy from the European Union, harming Italian economy and the savings of Italian families. Moreover, He added that he would himself designate someone as PM in the following hours.

These words were the political equivalent of dropping a bomb. Quickly Frartelli d’Italia and M5S declared they would ask to formally ask put the President of the Republic under accusation, a measure usually undertaken for high treason against the Republic.

This situation fractured the public opinion even more, which is now split in those who support the President of the Republic as the defender of the Italy’s Constitution and fate, and those who accuse him of doing the interests of the EU, Rating Agencies and Banks.

A few hours later, President Mattarella affirmed he had decided for the convocation of Carlo Cottarelli, a notorious economist who has worked for the IMF and has been known in Italy as “Mr Spending Review”. He affirmed that if he got the confidence of the parties in Parliament, new elections would be held in the early months of 2019, otherwise his government would only carry out daily duties until next October.

 

Part III: A new twist

Pictured: Carlo Cottarelli

As this article is written, news says that Cottarelli has been to the Palace of the President to present him the list of Minister and has left without any official explanation. For Italian journalist Enrico Mentana, this could be due to the fact that all political parties are pushing to go to vote sooner than what proposed: on Sunday the 29th of July.

Cottarelli is currently (h 18:15) at the Chamber of Deputies, where he is holding, as for La7 TV news, “informal consultations” with political parties.  At 18:18 ,the spokesperson of the President of the Republic has affirmed that Cottarelli simply needs more time to explore the list of Ministers, but this news causes scepticism among journalists.

In the background are regional elections, coming up in the next month, and the pressure coming from the financial world, as Milan stock exchange has closed negatively today and the Spread, the difference between German and Italian Bonds, is around 300 points, one of the highest peaks ever. Moreover, the debate has reached EU institutions, as German EU Commissioner Oettinger has criticized the behavior of Italian voters, being then himself criticized by Council President Tusk in a tweet.

The situation appears now more uncertain than ever.

Italy could have a government tomorrow, as Cottarelli has been formally convoked again for next morning. Alternatively, we could go directly to elections in July. News also ventilate the hypothesis that a new attempt at forming a political government could be made, maybe by the whole coalition of right wing parties, which would in that case leave out the M5S.

 

The Italian Frenzy we may call it. Updates will follow in the next hours.


Read more here:

TG2:http://www.tg2.rai.it/dl/RaiTV/programmi/media/ContentItem-ea0b84f9-84ba-477d-9ba6-91217ea801c3-tg2.html#p=

LA7 tv news: http://www.la7.it/dirette-tv

La Repubblica: http://www.repubblica.it/speciali/politica/elezioni2018/2018/03/04/news/risultati_elezioni_politiche_pd_centrodestra_m5s_fi_lega-190424815/

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