The year in Italian politics began with the threat of a government crisis after the smallest ruling party, Living Italy, issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that he must answer by Thursday, and the opposition collected 100,000 signatures in one day that call for the resignation of the prime minister. According to Italian press reports, the fate of Giuseppe Conte’s government will be decided by Jan. 7. The generally well-informed affaritalian i news portal estimated the chances of a government crisis at more than 90 percent. Other sources, however, are considering the possibility of a change of government.
The ultimatum was led by Matteo Renzi, whose party, the Living Italy (IV), gives around 3 percent of votes to the governing coalition. The IV has announced that it will withdraw its two ministers from the government by Jan. 7 if the prime minister does not comply with the party’s requests. The IV’s demands include that the prime minister involve government parties as widely as possible in the use of the €209 billion economic recovery fund for the country, as well as the use of European Stability Mechanism (ESM) funds by the government. In addition, Matteo Renzi is urging Giuseppe Conte to hand over the leadership of the secret services, which the prime minister took in his own hands months ago. Renzi made no secret of his willingness to “challenge” even Conte in parliament, who without the IV senators does not have the majority needed to govern in the upper house. Analysts say Renzi wants a change of prime minister, not a government. Commentators noted that Renzi was the spiritual father of the second Conte government formed in September 2019. At that time, the Five Star Movement (M5S) behind Giuseppe Conte continued to govern with the left-wing Democratic Party (PD) instead of the right-wing League. However, Conte considers his position as head of government to be certain, arguing that no one really wants a crisis and early elections, so he is ready to ask for confidence in parliament.
Observers see tensions in the government the Democratic Party could use to its advantage to ask for new ministerial portfolios in exchange for the head of government’s support. President Sergio Mattarella has previously ruled out the possibility of a third Conte government, but the current health and economic emergency also makes it difficult to hold new elections. The head of state has the opportunity to dissolve parliament until July, as it will no longer be possible for him to do so until the next president of the republic is elected in 2022. At the same time, Giorgia Meloni, president of the Italian Brothers (FdI), launched an online signature collection calling for the resignation of Giuseppe Conte, gathering 100,000 supporters by Sunday in just 24 hours.
Title image: Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte addresses a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. European Union leaders have reached a hard-fought deal to cut the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by the end of the decade compared with 1990 levels, avoiding a hugely embarrassing deadlock ahead of a U.N. climate meeting this weekend. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP)