EXPLAINED: When will Italy have a new government?

After general elections delivered a win for Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, the process of forming the next Italian government begins this week. Here's a look at what's likely to happen and when.

EXPLAINED: When will Italy have a new government?
Leader of Italian far-right party Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) Giorgia Meloni is set to form a new government after victory at the September 25 general elections. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

A coalition of hard-right political parties led by Giorgia Meloni, set to be the next prime minister, is to take power in Italy after winning historic elections on September 25th. But it might be a while before Meloni and her government actually get to work.

In the two weeks since the election result was made official, there hasn’t been much news on what the incoming government will look like or when it will take office.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new government

With Meloni in intense talks with political allies on forming her new cabinet, Italian newspapers are full of reports detailing ongoing political spats and backroom deals amid wild speculation about who’ll get which poltrone (seat, or job in government) and which political party will control which ministry. But very little is actually known for sure.

For now, here’s a look at what we do know at this point and what to expect in the coming weeks.

When will the new government take office?

The process of forming the government kicks off on Thursday, October 13th, when parliament reopens and must elect the new Senate and Chamber presidents.

After this, President Sergio Mattarella can begin holding consultations at the Quirinale Palace on who should lead the new government. If all goes smoothly, these consultations could begin as soon as October 17th. 

If, as in this case, there’s a clear election result, the consultations with the president can take as little as two or three days. These conclude with the appointment of a prime minister.

Italian head of state, Sergio Mattarella.

The new Italian prime minister will be elected by the head of state, Sergio Mattarella (pictured above), after a series of consultations. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

At this point, the new prime minister will hold their own consultations with parties willing to support a government, and draw up a list of cabinet ministers. This process is likely to take one or two days.

EXPLAINED: What’s behind election success for Italy’s far right?

Once sworn in, the premier then has ten days to win a vote of confidence for their new government from both houses of parliament. When that’s obtained, the new executive is fully operational and can get to work.

Based on this schedule, news reports this week predict Meloni’s cabinet could be in place by the end of October.

In the past it has taken up to 12 weeks for a new administration to take office, amid drawn-out negotiations between the various political parties making up a government.

The time needed for the formation of Meloni’s government is expected to be on the shorter side because her right-wing coalition took a large enough slice of the vote that it won’t need to form unwieldy alliances with parties from the other end of the political spectrum in order to take power.

And there’s no time to waste, as Italy currently faces a long list of major challenges requiring government attention, from the soaring cost of living to the impact of war in Ukraine.

What will the new government look like?

The division of the top jobs – notably economy, foreign affairs, the defence and interior ministries – will always be political but now, more than ever, “will have to reflect areas of expertise”, the La Stampa newspaper noted.

While no names have yet been confirmed, Meloni told a party meeting this week that she aims to create “an authoritative government of a very high level that is based on skills.”

Meloni’s allies have been pitching for heavyweight positions: Matteo Salvini wanting his old job as interior minister back, and Silvio Berlusconi eyeing president of the Senate.

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni (L) is tipped to become Italy’s next prime minister as part of a coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italy and Matteo Salvini’s League. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Their parties’ disappointing performance at election, however, with neither reaching 10 percent while Brothers of Italy’s secured 26 percent, means Meloni is expected to sideline them.

Salvini may instead be given the agricultural ministry, according to reports.

READ ALSO: How could Italy’s new government change the constitution?

Berlusconi ally Antonio Tajani, a former European parliament president, is tipped as possible foreign minister, an appointment which could both appease Berlusconi and assuage international fears that Meloni’s Eurosceptic populist party will pick fights with Brussels.

But as ever in the world of Italian politics, very little can be predicted with any certainty.

See all of The Local’s latest Italian political news here.

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Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Just weeks after going on trial in a case brought by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italian investigative journalist Roberto Saviano was back in court on Wednesday facing allegations of defamation lodged by Meloni's deputy, Matteo Salvini.

Second Italian minister takes anti-mafia reporter Saviano to court

Deputy Prime Minister Salvini, whose far-right League party is a key member of Meloni’s coalition, is suing the journalist for calling him the “minister of the criminal underworld” in a social media post in 2018.

In November, Saviano went on trial in a case brought by Meloni for calling her a “bastard” in 2020 over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

READ ALSO: Press freedom fears as Italian PM Meloni takes Saviano to trial

Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but won September elections on a promise to curb mass migration.

Saviano, known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, regularly clashes with Italy’s far-right and says the trials are an attempt to intimidate him.

He faces up to three years in prison if convicted in either trial.

“I think it is the only case in Western democracies where the executive asks the judiciary to lay down the boundaries within which it is possible to criticise it,” Saviano said in a declaration in court on Wednesday.

He said he was “blatantly the victim of intimidation by lawsuit”, on trial “for making my opinion, my thoughts, public”.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about press freedom in Italy

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the suits to be scrapped. Meloni refused in November, despite criticism that her position of power makes it an unfair trial.

Armed guard

Saviano has lived under police protection since revealing the secrets of the Naples mafia in 2006.

But when Salvini was appointed interior minister in a previous government in June 2018, he suggested he might scrap Saviano’s armed guard.

The writer reacted on Facebook, saying Salvini “can be defined ‘the minister of the criminal underworld’,” an expression he said was coined by anti-fascist politician Gaetano Salvemini to describe a political system which exploited voters in Italy’s poorer South.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia author Saviano won’t be ‘intimidated’ by Salvini

He accused Salvini of having profited from votes in Calabria to get elected senator, while failing to denounce the region’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia and focusing instead on seasonal migrants.

Salvini’s team are expected to reject any claim he is soft on the mafia.

Saviano’s lawyer said he will call as a witness the current interior minister Matteo Piantedosi, who at the time was in charge of evaluating the journalist’s police protection.

The next hearing was set for June 1st.

Watchdogs have warned of the widespread use in Italy of SLAPPS, lawsuits aimed at silencing journalists or whistleblowers.

Defamation through the media can be punished in Italy with prison sentences from six months to three years, but the country’s highest court has urged lawmakers to rewrite the law, saying jail time for such cases was unconstitutional.

Saviano is also being sued by Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano in a civil defamation case brought in 2020, before Sangiuliano joined the cabinet.

A ruling in that case could come in the autumn. If he loses that case Saviano may have to pay up to 50,000 euros in compensation, his lawyer told AFP.

Italy ranked 58th in the 2022 world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, one of the lowest positions in western Europe.