Italy awaits PM nominee after populists unveil government programme

Anti-establishment and far-right parties began haggling over who will be Italy's next prime minister after publishing a joint policy programme on Friday that brought the eurozone's third largest economy a step closer to a populist government.

Italy awaits PM nominee after populists unveil government programme
Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio suggested he could be a PM candidate. Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP
The political deadlock brought about by March's inconclusive elections neared its end after the plan's unveiling by the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League party.
The programme promises the end of post-crisis austerity measures and seeks deep change in relations with the European Union.
In a Facebook video, Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio said that the programme had received an approval rating of more than 94 percent after it was put to party members for a vote on M5S' online platform.
“Of the 44,796 people who voted, 42,274 voted in favour of the programme, more that 94 percent,” said a beaming Di Maio, who hailed the “outstanding result” as a show of “trust and enthusiasm” for the new programme.
The League will also offer a vote to anyone who visits the party stands which are to be put up across the country over the weekend.
With voter approval little more than a formality, all eyes were on who the two parties will choose as their candidate for prime minister. They need to announce a name in time for a meeting on Monday with President Sergio Mattarella.
Mattarella must agree to the parties' nominee before they can seek parliament's approval for their nascent government.
Both Five Star leader Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini remained tight-lipped on who they want as the next prime minister, as they hashed out their 58-page “Contract for the Government of Change”. 
On Friday Di Maio suggested that he could be one of the candidates.
“I don't know if I will end up being prime minister, but our real leader, the programme, will govern this country,” he said.
Five Star became Italy's largest party at the March elections, gaining nearly 33 percent of the vote, while the League – shorn of the rest of the rightwing coalition that won 37 percent – will be the junior coalition partner with 17 percent.
No euro exit
While an exit from the single currency – mooted in leaked drafts of the document – is no longer proposed, the document announced the parties' intention to review “with European partners the economic governance framework” of the EU, including the euro.
The parties want a monetary union that is “appropriate for the current geopolitical and economic imbalances and consistent with the objectives of the economic union”, it said.
The document featured a number of manifesto promises from the League. These included hardline immigration and security proposals, pension reform and a plan to have just two tax rates, of 15 and 20 percent. The programme proposed that Italy and the EU implement bilateral agreements with other countries in order to speed up the repatriation of illegal 
immigrants. The programme also pledges to close all “illegal” Roma camps, set up a register of imams and immediately shut down “radical Islamic associations”.
The proposals contained in the document have caused consternation at home and abroad. The key worry is how Italy, the eurozone's second most debt-laden country, can fund the coalition's proposals, such as drastic tax cuts and a monthly basic income for some nine million people. Some experts have estimated the cost of the document's proposals at 100 billion euros.
The Grande Oriente freemasons lodge blasted as “fascist” and “unconstitutional” the parties' decision to ban any of their members from becoming a government minister.
Meanwhile on Friday former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi clearly rejected the programme tweeting that his party would act as a “reasonable and scrutinising opposition” to an M5S-League government. 
The flamboyant media tycoon also took the opportunity to propose himself as the leader of a separate executive given “the lack of candidates with the qualities of trustworthiness, good sense and balance”.
Berlusconi campaigned alongside Salvini before the election as part of a right-wing coalition. The 81-year-old, recently ordered to stand trial for bribing witnesses in a  sex scandal, said that he was “very worried” about the “sermonising” content of the programme.
It proposes that no-one convicted of corruption or being investigated for serious crimes can become a minister. Conflict of interest criteria for parliamentarians would also be beefed up.
The media mogul, in the Aosta Valley with his Forza Italia party for Sunday's regional elections, said: “I'm available, and I don't think that there's any candidate comparable to Silvio Berlusconi”.
By AFP's Terry Daley


Italy’s government proposes bill to make surrogacy a ‘universal crime’

Italy’s parliament is set to debate a bill that would expand criminal penalties for the use of surrogacy, in what opponents say is part of a broader attack on gay rights by the country’s hard-right government.

Italy's government proposes bill to make surrogacy a 'universal crime'

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is lead signatory on the new bill, which would make surrogacy – already a crime in Italy – a criminal act for Italians who make use of the practice anywhere in the world.

The motion combines previous draft laws from the ruling Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia and League parties, and will be debated in the lower house from Wednesday, according to news agency Ansa.

The move comes days after the government ordered the city of Milan to stop issuing birth certificates to the children of same-sex couples on the grounds that the practice violates Italian law.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has long been outspoken against surrogacy, which she has described as “a commodification of women’s bodies and of human life.”

In a heated parliamentary debate on the rights of same sex couples on Monday, her Brothers of Italy colleague Federico Mollicone, chair of the lower house’s Culture Committee, said surrogacy was “more serious than paedophilia.”

Similar comments were made in 2017 by a minister of the now-defunct New Centre Right party, who likened entering into a surrogacy arrangement to committing a sex crime.

READ ALSO: ‘Surrogacy is like a sex crime’: Italy minister

In early 2022, as leader of the Brothers of Italy party in opposition to Mario Draghi’s coalition government, Meloni put forward the same motion to make surrogacy a “universal crime”.

The text was adopted by the Justice Committee of the former legislature – a preliminary step before it can be debated in the lower house – last April, but did not go further at the time.

The crime of surrogacy in Italy is currently punishable with a prison sentence of over three years or a fine of between 600,000 and one million euros; penalties that the government is proposing to extend to all Italian citizens who engage in the practice, regardless of where it occurs.

Whether such a law would even be possible to pass or enforce is unclear, and legal experts have dismissed it as impractical. 

“There are no conditions that would justify an expansion of penal intervention of this type,” Marco Pelissero, a professor of criminal law at the University of Turin, told L’Espresso newspaper.

The idea of a universal crime “does not even exist in the legal language,” he said.

But the proposal has aroused fears that, if passed, the law could result in large numbers of same-sex parents whose children were born via surrogates being sent to prison.

“With this law we would be exposing families with young children to criminal law, quite simply criminalising procreative choices made abroad in countries where these practices are regulated,” Angelo Schillaci, a professor of Comparative Public Law at La Sapienza University, told the news site Fanpage.

‘We are aware of how hard this government is working to strip even the most basic rights from same-sex-parent families,” Alessia Crocini, head of the Rainbow Families organisation, said last week when it was first announced that Milan had been banned from registering the children of gay couples.

The move resulted in large-scale protests across the city on Saturday, and Milan Mayor Beppe Sala has pledged to fight the change.

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view,” he said in a recent podcast interview.

On Tuesday, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders commented that European Union member states are required by EU law to recognise the children of same-sex couples.

“In line with the LGBTIQ equality strategy for 2020-2025, the Commission is in continuous dialogue with Member States regarding the implementation of the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

“This also includes the obligation for Member States to recognise” children “of same-sex parents, for the purpose of exercising the rights conferred by the EU”, Reynders reportedly said in response to question about the developments in Milan.