Italy’s political crisis: what’s going to happen next?

Here's everything we know so far about Italy's unfolding political crisis.

Italy's political crisis: what's going to happen next?
The Italian Senate. Photo: AFP

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to resign later today in response to calls for an early election. His resignation would bring down the bickering coalition government and could
potentially force a snap vote.

READ ALSO: Dday for Italian government as PM Conte expected to resign

The current crisis was triggered on August 8 when Interior Minister Matteo Salvini pulled support from the dysfunctional alliance – which his far-right League party is part of – in a bid to capitalise on polls suggesting his party could seize power if elections were held.

But so far, nothing is for sure and events could play out in a number of different ways. Here's a guid to the scenarios we might expect.

Today's first steps
The leaders of political groups in the Senate, the upper house, meet at 2.30 pm (1230 GMT) to decide on possible motions to be put to a vote.

Shortly afterwards, Conte will make a statement to parliamentarians where he is expected to be scathing of Salvini's conduct.

Salvini could then push for a vote of no confidence in the government – even though he is unlikely to win enough backing.

Conte resigns

Regardless of the outcome of a confidence motion, Conte could recognise the coalition was no longer viable and submit his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Conte could also potentially resign before a no confidence vote was held.

Both scenarios would put an end to Italy's government just 14 months after coming to power and pave the way for consultations to find a replacement. 

Centre-left alliance

Negotiations between Italy's deeply divided parties would be difficult, although some have mooted a new alliance between M5S and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

This would torpedo Salvini's plan to force elections and become prime minister, and lead to a new “progressive” government without the hard-right League.

The idea was proposed by former premier Matteo Renzi, now PD senator. If the plan was realised, Salvini has threatened to call for his supporters to demonstrate across the country.

U-turn reconciliation

If this unexpected alliance were to fail, a reconciliation between the League and M5S could not be totally ruled out.

Although extremely unlikely, Conte could stay on as premier and reshuffle the government.

Salvini has signalled he could re-establish coalition ties, saying he would back a M5S bill cutting the number of lawmakers — but only if new elections were then swiftly held.

The parliamentary reform vote is scheduled for Thursday, provided Conte does not resign.

Pro-European coalition

Romano Prodi, the former centre-left premier and ex-president of the European Commission, has proposed a unity government involving M5S, the PD and Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia.

After a year of Salvini's highly critical anti-EU rhetoric, Prodi said the new coalition would allow a “reintegration of Italy as an active member of the European Union”.

Snap election

Mattarella is responsible for verifying the viability of a new government coalition, based on proposals from political parties. If he believes no stable majority exists to govern, he may decide to call a snap election, possibly as early as the end of October.

This would grant Salvini his wish, with polls suggesting his League party and right-wing allies could win.
Salvini could be crowned prime minister with the League in coalition with the anti-immigration, anti-LGBT Fratelli d'Italia, and Forza Italia. 

Technocrat government

Alternatively, Mattarella could decide to appoint a caretaker administration.

This government of technocrats would manage day-to-day business ahead of a new election, probably next year.

This would allow to pass next year's budget to avoid an automatic rise in value-added tax that would hit the least well-off the hardest.

Brussels complications

Two deadlines complicate the situation further: next Monday, Italy will suggest a candidate for a post in the European Commission. And on October 15, Italy needs to send its budget to officials in Brussels.

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Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.