Italy government

Italy’s government collapses before it is formed

PARIS — It is time to withdraw the famous phrase of the Italian writer Ennio Flaiano, according to which in Italian politics, the situation is “always serious but never serious”. Today, it is fair to say that the situation is both grave and serious. Sunday’s implosion of a populist coalition government – after Italy’s president vetoed the coalition’s choice of a eurosceptic economist as finance minister – produced three outcomes, none of which are good for the economy. stability of Italy or Europe. This puts Italy on the path to new elections. This strengthened the position of the right-wing anti-immigrant League party. And it has turned Italy into a de facto referendum on the euro – an unprecedented development in a core member of the European Union and single currency.

On the brink of power, the coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the right-wing League party crumbled after the resignation of Giuseppe Conte, an untested and unelected lawyer they had chosen to lead their government. This prompted the Italian president to bring in a technocrat – Carlo Cottarelli, a professor nicknamed “Mr. scissors” in the Italian press because he oversaw a spending review of the Italian state budget – to try to form a supposedly “neutral” government to lead Italy to new elections which could be held as soon as this autumn. But even though the president, Sergio Mattarella, has full powers to veto ministers and said he was acting in Italy’s interests when he vetoed the choice of finance minister, the fact even that he appointed a technocrat seemed to go against the results of the Italian national election. elections in March, when more than half of voters delivered a strong anti-establishment message.

It’s the latest example of a short circuit that kicked off when the European debt crisis started a decade ago: Mattarella’s decision may be good for Europe’s short-term stability. European Union, but it is not great for democracy, which emboldens the populists. who increasingly view the bloc as anti-democratic. Cottarelli’s appointment is a gift to the League, whose leader Matteo Salvini has always campaigned on a platform of freeing Italy from servitude in Brussels and Berlin. Meanwhile, Five Star Movement leader Luigi di Maio, who only days ago said it was up to the president to choose ministers, has now set Italian social media ablaze with calls for impeachment of Mattarella because he intervened in the selection of ministers, and also called for mass mobilizations throughout Italy “to demonstrate our right to determine our future”.

“Mattarella fell into a trap,” said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Instituto di Affari Internazionali, a Rome-based think tank. She and others believe the League had been aiming since the start of new elections because polls show a right-wing bloc would win a majority and not need the Five Star Movement to govern. (The two parties allied two weeks ago after weeks of fruitless talks, as the March 4 vote failed to produce a clear majority.) That’s why the League has proposed the eurosceptic economist as minister for finance, Paolo Savona, and not a more moderate character, knowing that his presence would disturb the financial markets. The fact that the League did not suggest a new name for the finance minister also supports the idea that they wanted an election, not a compromise.

But in rejecting Savona, Mattarella had good reason. He said on Sunday that any conversation about Italy joining the euro should be in public, especially since euro membership was not a topic of discussion in the platform. agreed upon by the Five Star Movement and the League for the government they set up. Last week. The League’s Salvini has flip-flopped in recent years on whether he wants Italy to stay in the euro. In the past, he has said he wants a referendum on euro membership; during the campaign, he moderated his tone on the euro but raised it on immigration. Meanwhile, the Five Star Movement’s Di Maio has remained silent on the euro during the campaign, but the movement’s founder, Beppe Grillo, said this month he wants an “advisory referendum” on the currency. “It might be a good idea to have two euros, for two more homogeneous economic regions. One for Northern Europe and one for Southern Europe,” he said Newsweek this month.

Which brings us to another problem: the Eurosceptics are right. Beyond Italy’s self-inflicted economic stagnation – which helped elect populists in the first place – there are fundamental flaws in the architecture of the euro and no other country in the bloc, including France, cannot fully compete with the economic power of Germany. To support the euro, Europe must find a way to pool the debt, which remains national for the time being. The problem is that new developments in Italy will end this conversation. “All the German concern is about risk sharing and giving guarantees to other countries and the impossibility of having a rules-based mechanism that works well,” said Daniela Schwarzer, director of the German Council. foreign relations. “The arrival of a populist government in Italy – or the scenario now is uncertainty in Italy – is essentially fueling the fear that Italy is not playing by the rules and this will make any move towards deeper integration more difficult.”

Cottarelli is expected to appoint ministers on Monday and present his government for a vote of confidence in parliament. Even if that does not pass, he can govern until bringing the country to new elections, which will take place under his mandate. The short circuit continues.