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POLITICS

Italy could have a government by Monday

Italian anti-establishment and far-right leaders met on Friday to hash out a deal over a joint government that could be announced as soon as Sunday.

Italy could have a government by Monday
Matteo Salvini (L) and Luigi Di Maio. Photos: Filippo Monteforte/Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Matteo Salvini, leader of the nationalist League, told reporters after meeting head of Five Star Movement (M5S) Luigi Di Maio at the lower house Chamber of Deputies that their aim was to reach an agreement “as soon as possible”.

Di Maio then revealed upon leaving the chamber that the pair would meet in Milan on Saturday to continue talks over a “German-style” government contract, which he hopes to sign “as soon as possible”.

They could report on the progress of their talks as early as Sunday to President Sergio Mattarella, who could then nominate the new prime minister on Monday. That person is unlikely to be either Salvini or Di Maio.

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Italian media report that both parties agree on rolling back increases to the age of retirement, while the M5S is willing to follow the League's hardline anti-immigration policies.

Salvini and Di Maio are also willing to make compromises over their flagship policies – the League's drastic drop in taxes and the M5S's universal basic income – which look tricky to reconcile in the eurozone's second most indebted country.

On Thursday Di Maio's political advisor Vincenzo Spadafora emphasised the M5S's desire for Italy “to stay in the euro and in Europe,” despite wanting to rediscuss “some treaties”.

The EU is one of Salvini's favourite targets, with the 44-year-old making alliances across Europe with other anti-union figures like Viktor Orban and Marine La Pen. 

READ ALSO: What's stopping Italy's two leading parties from forming a government?

ITALIAN POLITICS

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Italy’s government was plunged into turmoil on Tuesday as foreign minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving his party to start a breakaway group.

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

He accused the party’s current leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, of undermining the coalition government’s efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Italy’s position within the EU.

“Today’s is a difficult decision I never imagined I would have to take … but today I and lots of other colleagues and friends are leaving the Five Star Movement,” Di Maio told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are leaving what tomorrow will no longer be the first political force in parliament.”

His announcement came after months of tensions within the party, which has lost most of the popular support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being wiped out in national elections due next year.

The split threatens to bring instability to Draghi’s multi-party government, formed in February 2021 after a political crisis toppled the previous coalition.

As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.

Di Maio played a key role in the rise of the once anti-establishment M5S, but as Italy’s chief diplomat he has embraced Draghi’s more pro-European views.

READ ALSO: How the rebel Five Star Movement joined Italy’s establishment

Despite Italy’s long-standing political and economic ties with Russia, Draghi’s government has taken a strongly pro-NATO stance, sending weapons and cash to help Ukraine while supporting EU sanctions against Russia.

Di Maio backed the premier’s strong support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, including sending weapons for Kyiv to defend itself.

In this he has clashed with the head of Five Star, former premier Giuseppe Conte, who argues that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution.

Di Maio attacked his former party without naming Conte, saying: “In these months, the main political force in parliament had the duty to support the diplomacy of the government and avoid ambiguity. But this was not the case,” he said.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“In this historic moment, support of European and Atlanticist values cannot be a mistake,” he added.

The Five Star Movement, he said, had risked the stability of the government “just to try to regain a few percentage points, without even succeeding”.

But a majority of lawmakers – including from the Five Star Movement – backed Draghi’s approach in March and again in a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Draghi earlier on Tuesday made clear his course was set.

“Italy will continue to work with the European Union and with our G7 partners to support Ukraine, to seek peace, to overcome this crisis,” he told the Senate, with Di Maio at his side.

“This is the mandate the government has received from parliament, from you. This is the guide for our action.”

The Five Star Movement stormed to power in 2018 general elections after winning a third of the vote on an anti-establishment ticket, and stayed in office even after Draghi was parachuted in to lead Italy in February 2021.

But while it once threatened to upend the political order in Italy, defections, policy U-turns and dismal polling have left it struggling for relevance.

“Today ends the story of the Five Star Movement,” tweeted former premier Matteo Renzi, who brought down the last Conte government by withdrawing his support.

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