The two Renzi ministers – Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova and Family Minister Elena Bonetti – submitted their resignation. The reason are divergences over the multi-billion dollar Corona aid program “Recovery Plan”, which the government passed on Wednesday night. State Secretary Ivan Scalfarotto, who is also a member of “Italia Viva”, also resigned.
The coalition of the five-star movement and the Social Democrats (Partito Democratico, PD) under the non-party Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte no longer has a sufficient majority in parliament. The government has been in the saddle since September 2019. Renzi decidedly ruled out a coalition with the opposition center-right parties. He also spoke out against early parliamentary elections. “The legislative period in Italy will end in 2023,” said the 45-year-old Tuscan. Going into the opposition is a possibility for “Italia Viva”, said Renzi.
At a press conference in the Chamber of Deputies, Renzi accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of wrong decisions in dealing with the pandemic. Renzi argued that the head of government was taking advantage of the pandemic to push through his plans on his own, without consulting with the coalition partners.
Only pandemic held government together
“The pandemic emergency cannot be the only element that holds this government together,” said Renzi, who accused Conte of insufficient willingness to engage in dialogue. “We are not plunging the country into a political crisis, the crisis has been going on for months,” said Renzi.
The splinter party “Italia Viva” founded by Renzi in autumn 2019 had in vain demanded that Italy call up funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in order to invest more resources in the health system. However, the co-governing Five Star Movement denied access to the ESM. Italy would risk, like Greece once did, to be patronized by the troika made up of the International Monetary Fund, the EU Commission and the European Central Bank, the five stars argued.
According to observers, Conte could now replace the Italia Viva ministers and submit to a vote of confidence in parliament to check whether his cabinet can continue to govern without Renzi’s small party. He could use the votes of a few parliamentarians from the ranks of the mixed group to keep his government afloat. “Italia Viva” was founded by Renzi after he left the social democratic PD in autumn 2019. According to polls, the party does not get more than three percent of the vote.
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza warned on Wednesday of an “unforgivable” political crisis that could weaken the government’s fight against the corona pandemic. The health of Italians must now come first, he warned. “It would really be an unforgivable mistake to lose focus or slow down so close to the finish line,” warned Speranza.
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