The temperature at the Colle (parliament) this week must be pretty high. Judging by the chatter in the barber and bar here in Sicily, everybody has pretty strong opinions about what has been going in Italy over the last week. Obviously its a mess, exacerbated by a partial media that is inventing more stories than even the Donald could manage. To keep you in the ever changing loop that is Italian (and European) politics here’s a guide to the last few days.
M5S and Lega finally agree a ‘contract’ for government and proffer Avvocato Conte as PM – he trots off to see President Mattarella and all goes smoothly until he proposes Paolo Savona for Chancellor. Now, Savona is a eurosceptic, and brazenly so. He has spent 40 years in and out of government and as one of the prime economists of Italy has worked under Berlusconi and President Ciampi, but was completely unacceptable to President Mattarella who vetoed the nomination. Conte therefore revoked his nomination as PM and Mattarella finds himself in a pickle.
The media get to work saying that Lega and M5S had a hidden agenda, not talked about in the elections, to take Italy out of the euro. There is not a shred of evidence for this, and as it would need a referendum and a vast amount of governmental time was not going to happen, at least in the first parliament. This didnt stop the great and good proclaiming a Plan B by the populists to damage Italy, and its knock on effect was to jitter the markets and the spread began to rise.
Mattarella cobbles together another possible government – with eurofriendly and IMF man Cottarelli as PM – who has to promise not to stand at the next elections and make all his ministers promise too. All the political parties say they will not vote for the new government which means it will last a day. Nobody seems willing to chuck their current job for the shortest contract in history. Cottarelli fails to find all his ministers and went home looking a bit deflated and the press hit their stride.
Enter Euro gobs into the fray – one of whom (a German), says that the ‘market will teach the Italians how to vote’ . This doesnt go down well with the Italians who already think that Germany is far too uppity. Mass rallies are planned to show the world that Italians believe in democracy – which they have singularly failed to uphold since 1865. The country is split down the middle: those who support Mattarellas power and decision to veto a government minister, and those who feel the President should bow to the will of the people and a majority government and assent to the cabinet they choose.
Mattarella’s decision was not unique – every president of the repubblic has vetoed a minister or two. However that is usually on constitutional grounds – conflict of interest, etc – Here the decision was political, and that has raised the hackles. So panic spreads as do the market jitters and the euro begins to suffer. The Lega/5S point out that a vote in Italy is pointless if it is ignored in favour of the European bank and markets taking precedence – which helps them along the way – an opinon poll states that a Lega/M5S coalition for the next election would take 95% of the seats.
Only the PD squeal that Mattarella should impose a government but then backtrack and announce they wouldnt vote in a confidence vote. Renzi meanwhile, is by all accounts, planning to jump ship and form a new political party with of all people, Berlusconi – but that wont be ready in time for elections in July – which is where we are heading today. Silvio – now able to stand for parliament – desperately wants Salvini and the Lega to come home to the centre right, but after all the insults from his party, Salvini is feeling stroppy. Meloni and the neofascist have decided to throw in the their lot with Salvini – as they would be consigned to oblivion if not.
So as of 10 am on 30 May, we are in a state of flux – all combined with pressing matters like a G7, a budget that must be voted on, and a European plan to make a 2 tier euro so Greece, Spain and Italy pay higher interest on their debt than the virtuous northern countries, and therefore become, officially, the poor men of Europe. Mattarella’s plan to bolster European ties has backfired spectactularly and the government and its ‘populism’ will take a lurch to euroscepticism that was unthinkable only a week ago.