Italy’s coalition government is one year old, but how much longer can it survive?

Matteo Salvini's hard-right League is flourishing one year after Italy's populist coalition came to power, but the government remains riven by infighting and the economy is in the doldrums.

Italy's coalition government is one year old, but how much longer can it survive?
From right: Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio, PM Giuseppe Conte and Deputy PM Matteo Salvini. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“This is a government that has talked a lot but has done much less than it said it would,” Franco Pavoncello, political science professor at the John Cabot university in Rome, told AFP.

There have been two major reforms on the socio-economic front: a basic national income — wanted by the League's coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) — and a chance to retire earlier, which was a League election promise.


The measures may have been crowd pleasers, but they dealt a blow to the country's public deficit and its already mammoth debt, which is more than €2,300 billion.

“The past year has led to the situation Italy now faces,” Pavoncello said. “With having to find 40 to 50 billion euros for next year's budget, the increase in the spread, [and] the decline in growth, we are moving towards a new fall-out with the EU.”

Italy also lowered its growth figures for the first quarter of 2019 on Friday to just 0.1 percent — a blow for the government.

Role reversal

The European Commission has called on them to explain the deterioration of its public accounts. It won't be their first sparring match: the coalition rowed bitterly with Brussels at the end of last year over its big-spending 2019 budget, which the European Commission rejected in a historic first.

Both sides then made compromises to get the budget over the line a few months before European elections, soothing nerves among international investors and market. But the spread — the closely watched premium asked by investors for Italian versus German debt and a good indication of market concern — has widened to around 280 points over the year, compared to 150 in May 2018.


In the meantime, the political situation has undergone a complete about-turn since June 1st 2018, when the eurozone's third-largest economy got its first populist administration. The M5S celebrated taking an impressive 32 percent at last year's general election, while the League scored 17 percent.

At last week's EU vote, however, the M5S won just 17 percent, while the League triumphed with 34 percent.

Strongman Salvini, deputy prime minister and interior minister, was already acting as if he was head of government, the major Italian dailies said on Friday.

Matteo Salvini celebrates the League's EU election victory. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Salvini 'predominant'

The Corriere della Sera newspaper said it would take about a month to see whether or not the government would survive.

“For a year, the League and M5S have contradicted each other. Continuous and exhausting negotiations have led to the adoption of laws on divergent interests, with a negative impact on the deficit and debt,” it said.

“Now, even negotiations no longer seem likely… Salvini's project has become predominant.”

The League and M5S are set to wrangle over numerous issues in the coming weeks. The League wants its coalition partner to end its resistance to a high-speed rail line between the cities of Turin and Lyon in France, and their idea for a flat-tax rate.

FOR MEMBERS: What is Italy's flat tax and who would it benefit?

“It remains to be seen if the coalition finishes its entire term, given the major ideological differences that constantly cause friction,” said Michiel van der Veen from Rabobank.

But Flavia Perina, political journalist with La Stampa daily, said Salvini would not be the one to pull the plug: “He is determined to leave any responsibility for political crises to the M5S.”

Nor does he want to risk losing the votes the League has just picked up from disaffected M5S supporters, “an enormous army of deserters who need to be kept close,” she said. 

By AFP's Ljubomir Milasin

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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.