How an unexpected alliance thwarted Salvini’s bid for Italian snap election

The spectre of a snap election in Italy appears to have retreated after two former foes teamed up to defeat a far-right no-confidence bid.

How an unexpected alliance thwarted Salvini's bid for Italian snap election
Matteo Salvini said he would try for another no-confidence vote. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The leader of the anti-migration League, Matteo Salvini, pulled the plug on his coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) last week, hoping for a no-confidence vote that would topple the government.

But his abandoned partner found an unexpected ally in the opposition Democratic Party (PD).

Both M5S and PD on Tuesday voted against Salvini despite his last-minute offer to back a plan to slash the number of the country's lawmakers.

Salvini said he would back the reform, one of M5S's key pledges, on condition they supported a no-confidence vote in independent Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government and hold snap polls.

M5S was having none of it. Leader Luigi Di Maio pointed out that Salvini had backed himself into a corner as electoral reform would take at least eight months, during which an election cannot be held.

“Salvini is at a dead end, if he wants to reduce the number of lawmakers, he can't vote no-confidence in Conte,” Di Maio said late on Tuesday.

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

The day after the failed vote, Salvini said he would try for another no-confidence vote on August 20th, when Conte is to address the Senate. But he made no mention of parliamentary reform.

“On August 20th, we will vote no-confidence in the prime minister. No to palace manoeuvres and to technical and bizarre governments. The democratic, transparent, linear path is that of elections,” Salvini said on Wednesday.

If Salvini backs the parliamentary reform, his support – along with that of former PD premier Matteo Renzi at the other end of the political spectrum – means it will likely be passed by MPs on August 22nd or 23rd.

The money saved from having fewer lawmakers, around €50 million ($56 million), should be spent on schools, roads and hospitals, said Di Maio.

However the reform must then be put to referendum, which takes at least six months, said experts on Italy's complex parliamentary system, plus another two months is required to draw up a new electoral law, during which time no elections can be held.

The broken League-M5S coalition would remain paralyzed and unable to agree on the crucial 2020 budget which must find an extra 23 billion euros or Italy's VAT rate would rise from 22 to 25 percent in January next year.

M5S and PD alliance?

Renzi has proposed a M5S-PD alliance to pass the budget, despite the virulent exchanges between the two parties after Renzi resigned in December 2016.

Both the PD and M5S remain divided on cooperating with each other.

The M5S left wing represented by lower house speaker Roberto Fico is more favourable, while the more right-wing Di Maio faction is more reluctant.

“A government limited to the PD and M5S created with the aim of lasting until 2022 is the most realistic scenario, provided they find a coherent basic programme and a minimum of shared vision,” Stefano Folli wrote on Wednesday in the left-leaning Repubblica newspaper.

Di Maio is instead seeking a reshuffle with more M5S portfolios, and PD parliamentary support, as part of a second Conte government.

Nevertheless, nothing is ever certain in Italy's fluid politics, and the League and its potential allies from Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia and Giorgia Meloni's extreme-right Brothers of Italy could garner 50 percent of votes in an election, according to the latest opinion polls.

By AFP's  Françoise Kadri

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.