SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Early elections or ‘waste of time’? What does Italy’s latest political crisis mean?

With former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi threatening to bring down the coalition government, does a snap election in 2021 really look likely?

Early elections or 'waste of time'? What does Italy's latest political crisis mean?
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: Andrew Medichini/POOL/AFP

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has more than enough on his plate as he deals with the coronavirus pandemic, but he also faces the more immediate challenge of staying in office.

Despite a soaring Covid-19 death toll and with a deadline looming to come up with a plan to spend billions of euros in EU recovery funds, the government has been consumed for weeks by internal sniping from former prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Renzi has repeatedly threatened to withdraw his small but pivotal Italia Viva party from the centre-left coalition that Conte heads, which would force the government's collapse, in a row centred on the recovery fund.

“The situation is, in technical terms, a disaster,” the politician, who led Italy from 2014 to 2016, said in an interview with the Rete 4 channel broadcast late Monday.

Asked about the chances of Conte keeping his job, he said: “We'll see.”

Renzi has complained about various policies, including accusing Conte of setting spending priorities without enough consultation for
the 196 billion euros Italy expects to receive under the EU recovery plan.

Conte, a once-obscure law professor chosen as a compromise candidate for prime minister by the previous coalition government, has so far proven surprisingly adept at navigating the choppy waters of Italian politics.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus crisis 'strengthens' Italian PM Conte at home and abroad

He has been in office since 2018, first at the helm of a right-leaning administration comprising the M5S and the League.

That coalition collapsed a year later due to a power grab by league leader Matteo Salvini, but Conte stayed on at the head of a second coalition government between the M5S, PD and smaller allies.

Renzi's showdown with Conte is expected to come to a head in the coming days, when ministers meet to discuss the EU plans.

But does this sniping really mean anything for the stability of the Italian government?

Conte is expected by many commentators to try to placate Renzi with a cabinet reshuffle, either by persuading some ministers to step down, or by resigning himself to seek a new mandate from President Sergio Mattarella with a revised list of cabinet ministers.

The Italian media speculates that, aside from a reshuffle, a crisis could lead to Conte being reappointed to head a new government.

If Conte is ousted and politicians cannot agree on a successor, Mattarella could be forced to call snap elections – two years early.

Early elections would be nothing new or unusual in Italy.

But in any upcoming election, opinion polls point to likely victory for the right-wing opposition bloc, fronted by the anti-immigrant League.

Renzi's party meanwhile would risk being wiped out – they are currently polling at around three percent.

Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the Teneo consultancy firm, said he expects a re-ordering of the coalition parties but for Conte to stay in power.

“The strength of the ruling coalition in Italy is its weakness — they know they cannot afford elections,” he told AFP. “I don't think this crisis will yield anything particularly meaningful.”

“It will just be another waste of time at the worst time possible for the country.”

Member comments

  1. A right wing victory, Renzi destroyed,Conte sent packing ,it sounds like great news ,fingers crossed.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

Italy plans to stop ‘revolving door’ between judges and politicians

Italian lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a planned reform aimed at stopping the 'revolving door' between justice and government, as part of wider changes to the country's creaking judicial system.

Italy plans to stop 'revolving door' between judges and politicians

The proposed reform, which still has to be approved by the Italian Senate in the coming weeks, imposes significant limitations on the number of magistrates, prosecutors and judges looking to go into politics – a frequent move in Italy.

Under the submitted changes, a magistrate wishing to stand for election, whether national, regional or local, will not be able to do so in the region where they have worked over the previous three years.

At the end of their mandate, magistrates who have held elective positions will not be able to return to the judiciary – they will be moved to non-jurisdictional posts at, for example, the Court of Auditors or the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to local media reports.

Furthermore, magistrates who have applied for elective positions but have not been successful for at least three years will no longer be able to work in the region where they ran for office. 

The reform is part of a wider programme of changes to Italy’s tortuous judicial system. This is required by the European Commission to unlock billions of euros in the form of post-pandemic recovery funds.

Public perception of the independence of Italian courts and judges is among the worst in Europe, according to the EU’s justice scoreboard.

SHOW COMMENTS