After Matteo Renzi’s splinter party Italia Viva withdrew from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet, the center-left alliance was left without a majority in parliament in Rome. The two ministers from Italia Viva resigned on Wednesday. The ruling Social Democrats and the Five Star Movement accuse Renzi of “treason”.
Social Democrats leader Nicola Zingaretti called a meeting of the party committee for Thursday to discuss the latest political developments. Zingaretti described the government crisis as “incomprehensible”. Ultimately, Conte had signaled his willingness to negotiate with Renzis Italia Viva on a new government agenda right up to the end.
Renzi also had to accept sharp attacks from the Five Star Movement, the strongest individual party in the Italian parliament. “Italia Viva is pulling out of the coalition at a time when the country is facing an unprecedented epidemiological and economic emergency. Renzi is fleeing responsibility while our movement continues to work alongside Giuseppe Conte in the interests of the citizens,” said Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede, head of the delegation of the five stars, who want to campaign for Contes to remain in office. The PD also wants to remain loyal to Conte.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza, top politician of the left-wing force Liberi e Uguali (LeU), a member of the government coalition, spoke of an “unforgivable” political crisis that could damage the government’s fight against the corona pandemic. The health of Italians must now come first, he warned. “It would be an unforgivable mistake to lose focus or slow down so close to the finish line,” warned Speranza.
Meanwhile, the opposition center-right parties are looking at the pieces of the governing coalition with scorn. “The Italians are under the spell of the ongoing dispute between the governing parties. In Italy there is no longer a cabinet,” commented Lega boss Matteo Salvini, who spoke out in favor of early parliamentary elections. Elections are planned for 2021 in many other countries facing the pandemic. Italy could also vote in the spring. “Italy mustn’t lose any more time. Conte should resign and pave the way for new elections,” demanded Giorgia Meloni, head of the right-wing Fratelli d’Italia (Italian brothers) party.
If the governing parties fail to find a solution to the crisis, early parliamentary elections would be the only way out. The parliamentarians of the five-star movement, among others, who fear large losses of votes, are resisting this. The five-star movement won the 2018 general election with 32 percent of the vote. According to polls, their votes would be halved in new elections.
The governing parties also shy away from new elections because, according to surveys, these could lead to a victory for the center-right parties with the Lega led by Matteo Salvini. The new parliament would also have to be elected according to new rules that the Italians approved in a referendum in September. The number of members of parliament would shrink from the current 945 to 600 and many parliamentarians would lose their seats.