Italy recalls Senate from recess as no-confidence vote looms

AFP/The Local
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Italy recalls Senate from recess as no-confidence vote looms
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and League leader Matteo Salvini. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Italy's political leaders decided to recall the entire Senate from summer recess on Tuesday to vote on a timetable that could include a no-confidence vote and spell the end of the ruling populist coalition.


The future of the government was cast into doubt last week after the League party withdrew support for the current ruling coalition - which it is part of.

READ ALSO: Government crisis: is Italy heading for early elections?

Hard-right populist League leader Matteo Salvini, who is also co-deputy prime minister and interior minister in the fractious government, demanded snap elections after pulling support for the coalition with the Five Star Movement (M5S).

While the government is still in place, the Senate must decide whether to initiate a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's 14-month-old administration.

The heads of political groupings met in the upper house on Monday, but failed to reach an agreement on when a no-confidence vote should happen.

Senators have now been recalled from their holidays to debate a calendar for the complex constitutional process of a no-confidence vote.

The Senate is to meet from 1600 GMT today with the aim of agreeing on a timeline.

Salvini, eager to capitalise on his current popularity, wants the vote held immediately.

The anti-immigrant League leader has been taking his message to the beaches at the height of the summer holiday season, seeking to build on his “man of the people” image as he prepared to trigger the crisis.

His popularity is seemingly undented by recent allegations that his party sought funding from Russia, or the fact that The League has been ordered to pay back 49 million euros in fraudulently claimed electoral expenses.

He's supported by right-wing allies, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the smaller far-right party Brothers of Italy, in demanding a snap vote as soon as possible.

Matteo Salvini (L) and Silvio Berlusconi go back a long way. Photo: AFP

The Senate could in theory declare the end of the government as early as August 20, with the dissolution of parliament possible in the following days, Italian news agency AIG said.

New elections would then have to be held within 70 days according to Italy's constitution, meaning Salvini could get his election by October.

Salvini says he wants an election in order to form a stable, five-year government without the constant bickering with M5S, which is politically distant from the League's hardline anti-immigration stance.

READ ALSO: Matteo Salvini, Italy's rebranded nationalist sharing power with former enemy

He says he wants to implement radical tax cuts and initiate public works projects to kickstart the Italian economy.

But the M5S is among those opposed to swift elections, with Di Maio calling for parliament first to implement a planned parliamentary reform which would slash the number of lawmakers from 950 to 605, a move that's popular among the electorate but not with the League, as it would potentially diluting the party's power.

M5S and the opposition Democratic Party (PD) are discussing a potential collaboration, as together they would have enough votes to potentially thwart Salvini's bid to bring down the government and seize power.

The M5S's founder, comedian Beppe Grillo, called for a "republican front" to prevent "the barbarians" forming a government.

Matteo Renzi, who governed for PD from 2014-16, called for the formation of a technocrat government to avoid "giving the extreme right our children's future".

The M5S, PD and other parties should support an "institutional government" to pass the parliamentary reform and next year's budget to avoid an automatic rise in VAT which would hit the least well-off the hardest, Renzi said.

The party is also divided over whether to try to form a coalition with M5S, something they refused to do after last May's elections, prompting the unwieldy M5S-League alliance.

READ ALSO: Italy's former Northern League hunts votes in the south


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