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POLITICS

Italy’s new government, by the numbers

Close to three months after a fiercely fought election, Italy has a government – and for the first time, it's run entirely by populists. The Local breaks down the historic cabinet in figures.

Italy's new government, by the numbers
Italy's new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

One: the number of the European Union's founding members to have elected a government of populists.

Two: the number of parties governing Italy. The Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League thrashed out a compromise between the two of them, minus the two other parties that the League ran with in the general election in March.

Three: the number of times that a president has vetoed a nominee for minister in the past 25 years. In each case, parties have come to much the same solution the M5S and League reached: switching the disputed nominee to a less sensitive portfolio. Only in this instance, however, did the parties throw in the towel, only to grab it back a few days later.

Four: the number of days that Carlo Cottarelli was prime minister in waiting. The economist was designated caretaker PM on Monday, but gave up his mandate on Thursday after party leaders made a last-minute compromise to form their political government.

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Four: the number of people who now have “prime minister” in their job description. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has two deputies, Luigi Di Maio of the M5S and the League's Matteo Salvini, as well as an “undersecretary for prime minister”, Giancarlo Giorgetti.

Five: the number of women in the new cabinet. Out of 18 ministers. It's hardly the gender-equal cabinet that the M5S had promised prior to the election.

Five: also the number of years in a full legislative term. Will this one last that long? In Italy, most don't.

Six: the number of ministers aligned with the League. Nine are aligned with the M5S and another three are considered independent. 

Eight: the number of ministers who are not in parliament and do not hold a position of elected office. It's a little ironic for two parties who so vehemently opposed the prospect of an unelected, technocratic government.

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17: the percentage of the popular vote that the League won in the general election. The M5S won 33 percent, making them Italy's single biggest party by some way. 

32: the size of the coalition's majority in the lower house of parliament. It's even smaller in the upper house: under ten votes.

57: the number of pages in the M5S-League joint government programme. (You don't have to read them all: find a summary here.)

60-70: the percentage of Italians who oppose leaving the euro, according to a recent survey. Both the M5S and the League say that option's off the table, but it's something both parties have pushed for until recently.

81: the age of Italy's oldest cabinet minister, Paolo Savona, who also happens to be the most controversial. Read a profile of him here

88: the number of days it took since the March 4th vote to form a government. Since the founding of the Italian Republic after World War Two, the average has been 44.7 days; before now, the record was set in 1992, when a coalition of Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals took 85 days to agree on a cabinet. The resulting government's time in office was as short as the negotiations were long: it lasted just ten months

READ ALSO: Here is Italy's new cabinet in full


Photo: Italian Presidency Press Office/AFP

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Far right set to take power in Italy after topping vote, exit polls show

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni came top in Italian elections on Sunday, exit polls suggested, putting her eurosceptic populists on course to take power at the heart of Europe.

Far right set to take power in Italy after topping vote, exit polls show

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, has never held office but looks set to form Italy’s most far-right government since the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini during World War II.

Exit polls published by the Rai public broadcaster and Quorum/YouTrend both put Brothers of Italy on top, at between 22 and 26 percent of the vote.

BLOG: Italian election exit polls suggest victory for Giorgia Meloni

Her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, lagged behind but between them appear to have enough seats to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.

The result must still be confirmed but risks fresh trouble for the European Union, just weeks after the far-right outperformed in elections in Sweden.

Meloni, who campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family”, has abandoned her calls for one of Europe’s biggest economies to leave the eurozone, but says Rome must assert its interests more in Brussels.

“Today you can participate in writing history,” the 45-year-old tweeted before the polls closed.

Turnout was lower than in the 2018 elections.

Meloni had been leading opinion polls since Prime Minister Mario Draghi called snap elections in July following the collapse of his national unity government.

Hers was the only party not to join Draghi’s coalition when, in February 2021, the former European Central Bank chief was parachuted in to lead a country still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

For many voters, Meloni was “the novelty, the only leader the Italians have not yet tried”, Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy told AFP before the election.

But the self-declared “Christian mother” – whose experience of government has been limited to a stint as a minister in Berlusconi’s 2008 government – has huge challenges ahead.

Like much of Europe, Italy is suffering rampant inflation while an energy crisis looms this winter, linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Italian economy, the third largest in the eurozone, is also saddled with a debt worth 150 percent of gross domestic product.

‘Limited room for manoeuvre’

Brothers of Italy has roots in the post-fascist movement founded by supporters of Benito Mussolini, and Meloni herself praised the dictator when she was young.

She has sought to distance herself from the past as she built up her party into a political force, going from just four percent of the vote in 2018 to Sunday’s triumph.

Her coalition campaigned on a platform of low taxes, an end to mass immigration, Catholic family values and an assertion of Italy’s nationalist interests abroad.

They want to renegotiate the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, arguing that the almost 200 billion euros Italy is set to receive should take into account the energy crisis.

But “Italy cannot afford to be deprived of these sums”, political sociologist Marc Lazar told AFP, which means Meloni actually has “very limited room for manoeuvre”.

The funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by Draghi.

 Ukraine support

Despite her euroscepticism, Meloni strongly supports the EU’s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, although her allies are another matter.

Berlusconi, the billionaire former premier who has long been friends with Vladimir Putin, faced an outcry this week after suggesting the Russian president was “pushed” into war by his entourage.

It is only one area in which Meloni and her allies do not see eye to eye, leading some analysts to predict that their coalition may not last long.

EXPLAINED: Is Brothers of Italy a ‘far right’ party?

Italian politics is historically unstable, with almost 70 governments since 1946.

A straight-speaking Roman raised by a single mother in a working-class neighbourhood, Meloni rails against what she calls “LGBT lobbies”, “woke ideology” and “the violence of Islam”.

She has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on Italy’s shores each year, a position she shares with Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking charity rescue ships when he was interior minister in 2019.

The centre-left Democratic Party claimed her government would pose a serious risk to hard-won rights such as abortion and will ignore global warming, despite Italy being on the front line of the climate emergency.

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