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POLITICS

Italy’s government risks collapse after Five Star sits out key vote

Prime Minister Mario Draghi's coalition government teetered on the brink of collapse Thursday, after the Five Star Movement refused to participate in a confidence vote, raising the spectre of a snap general election.

Far-right Lega party leader and Italian Senator Matteo Salvini reacts in the Senate hall before a vote of confidence to the prime minister at Palazzo Madama in Rome, on July 14, 2022.
Far-right Lega party leader and Italian Senator Matteo Salvini reacts in the Senate hall before a vote of confidence to the prime minister at Palazzo Madama in Rome, on July 14, 2022. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

The Five Star Movement (M5S), headed by former premier Giuseppe Conte, is a formerly anti-establishment party that has plummeted in the polls and lost parliamentarians since joining the government, hurt by policy U-turns and internal divisions.

The decision to sit out the vote – which political experts say is a tactical attempt to win back grassroots support – could push Draghi’s already fractured coalition to collapse, and even force early national elections later in the year.

“We are not taking part in the vote on this measure today… but this position of ours is not about confidence in the government,” said, Mariolina Castellone, the leader of M5S in the Senate.

The government survived the confidence vote, but Draghi had previously warned on multiple occasions he would not carry on as premier without M5S support.

Draghi, who has stated on multiple occasions there will be no government without M5S, called a cabinet meeting directly after the vote.

The prime minister had previously shown signs of losing patience with squabbling between parties, saying on Tuesday he would step down as prime minister if M5S quits the coalition.

“For me there is no government without Five Star,” Draghi said at a press conference on Tuesday. “There is no Draghi government different from the current one.”

The vote was called on an aid package worth about 23 billion euros, designed to help Italians deal with soaring energy bills and rising inflation.

But it also included a provision to allow a garbage incinerator to be built in Rome – something M5S has long opposed.

Analysts suggested the beleaguered party was not trying to collapse the government but attempting to win back some of its lost support by doubling down on its principles ahead of the scheduled 2023 general election.

Lorenzo Codogno, a professor at the London School of Economics, said the abstention would usher in “a new political phase”.

“Draghi would have no choice but to resign,” he told AFP.

Nervous investors sent the Milan stock exchange down three percent.

– Five Star tensions –

Since winning legislative elections in 2018 with an unprecedented third of the vote, M5S has been losing support and risks being wiped out in national elections scheduled for next year.

Last month the party – which had represented the largest in parliament – split, with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio starting a breakaway group, ‘Together for the Future’, and taking a quarter of M5S parliamentarians with him.

Conte, whose party is now polling at 11 percent of the vote, is trying to bring more visibility to M5S ahead of elections.

Codogno said he did not believe that Conte was seeking to bring down the government, but that his party “wants to make headlines and make gains in the polls again by running opposition as if it were not in government”.

The far-right has seized on the tensions, with the leader of the League party within the governing coalition, Matteo Salvini, saying on Wednesday that if M5S were to sit out the vote, new elections should be called.

“I think there is nothing left for Draghi but to go to Mattarella and resign,” Franco Pavoncello, a professor of political science at Rome’s John Cabot University, told AFP.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

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.

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