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POLITICS

Italy might hold new elections in July

Italy could go back to the polls in two months' time after yet another round of talks failed to produce a working government.

Italy might hold new elections in July
Matteo Salvini of the League with his coalition partners at the presidential palace after Italy's latest round of unsuccessful talks. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The Five Star Movement (M5S), Italy's single biggest party, and the League, which leads a right-wing coalition that together got the largest share of the ballot in March's general election, have suggested calling another vote as soon as July 8th.

Speaking after talks with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Monday, the leaders of both parties ruled out the possibility of putting a caretaker cabinet in charge to deal with Italy's most pressing matters of government, including passing the next budget.

The League's Matteo Salvini, who met the Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio as part of the consultations, said that the two had agreed upon the first Sunday in July as a date for possible elections. A summer vote would be unprecedented in Italy, where elections usually take place no later than June.

Di Maio, who like Salvini said he opposed a “president's government” of technocrats picked by the head of state, said that a second vote would effectively be “a run-off” between the M5S and the right-wing alliance.

“It's clear that there are two political realities competing to run the country and Italians will choose,” he said.

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Luigi Di Maio speaks to the press after Monday's meetings. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The League's alliance topped the March 4th polls with 37 percent of the vote, while the anti-establishment M5S became Italy's largest single party with almost 33 percent.

Neither group has the numbers to form a majority government and both have been tussling for power since the election.

Di Maio has offered to forgo the prime minister's office in order to make a deal with the League, but insists that his party will not work with Salvini's coalition partner, former PM Silvio Berlusconi, who the M5S has vehemently opposed ever since it was founded. 

Salvini continued to insist on Monday that he would not drop Berlusconi or his Forza Italia party, and proposed instead that the president allow him and his partners on the right to form a minority government.   

But press reports suggest Mattarella would be unlikely to do so without guarantees a working majority could be reached. He is said to be looking for a neutral but competent figure to head a caretaker cabinet, though so far only the Democratic Party, whose share of the vote fell to just 19 percent in the last vote, has said it would support such a government.

Mattarella will continue meeting Italy's smaller parties throughout Monday. 

Meanwhile pollster Lorenzo Pregliasco said voter surveys suggested new elections would not change the balance of forces: “No one will win a majority.” 

READ ALSO: The Local's introductory guide to Italian politics

ENERGY

Italy to have enough gas ‘to make it through winter’

Italy’s current gas stocks should suffice for the upcoming winter but the government should be wary of unforeseen supply-chain issues, says ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi.

Italy to have enough gas 'to make it through winter'

Despite recent issues regarding Russian supplies, Italy should have enough gas to make it through the winter, said Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italian energy giant ENI, on Thursday.

“Russian gas has effectively been replaced” and the current conditions should afford the country some “tranquillity” ahead of the winter season, he added.

READ ALSO: Russia will resume gas deliveries to Italy, Gazprom says 

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas from Moscow accounted for about 40 percent of Italy’s annual gas imports. 

At the present time, however, Russian gas only contributes to around 10 percent of the country’s demand, with deliveries sitting around “10-15 million cubic metres per day”, said Descalzi.

Logo of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Russian gas, which is supplied by energy giant Gazprom, currently accounts for only 10 percent of Italian gas imports, down from 40 percent. Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

ENI’s CEO also expressed contentment over the country’s gas-storing efforts, saying that national stocks “will soon be completely full” – according to the latest available indications, 90 percent of them have already been filled up. 

Descalzi’s words of reassurance came only a day after Russian energy giant Gazprom resumed gas deliveries to Italy. 

As previously reported by The Local, the supply of Russian gas to Rome had been suspended last Saturday due to disagreements over contractual obligations between Gazprom and Austrian energy regulator E-Control.

The incident had raised reasonable fears of a long-term suspension of Russian gas supplies, with Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani and Descalzi both stepping in over the weekend to reassure citizens about Italy’s gas reserves.

That said, despite the relative stability of Italy’s current energy status, a measure of uncertainty still lingers on. 

Descalzi himself admitted on Thursday that “technical issues on the part of suppliers” or an “exceptionally cold winter” might cause problems for Italy’s energy plans.

That’s why, he said, “regasification plants are so vital for next year’s winter” and to give further stability to the system.  

Two workers ride bicycles at the Barcelona's Enagas regasification plant.

Regasification plants will be vital to Italy’s plans to rely on liquefied natural gas supplies in the future. Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP

READ ALSO: What does the shut-off of Russian gas supplies mean for Italy?

Briefly, though Italy has chosen to bet heavily on Algerian gas in order to wean itself off Russian supplies – Algeria will supply Rome with as many as nine billion cubic metres of gas next year – the country will also receive a total of four billion cubic metres of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) from different African partners over the course of 2023.

Regasification plants, which essentially work to convert liquid gas to its gaseous state, will then be essential to unlock the potential of the new LNG supplies. 

Italy currently has three active regasification plants, but the construction of a fourth one near Piombino, Tuscany is now under consideration.

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