Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wanted to overcome the corona crisis with a gigantic economic stimulus program – instead, his government is now falling apart. In the dispute over the million dollar aid, the small coalition partner Italia Viva (IV) announced its support and withdrew its two ministers from the cabinet. Conte no longer has a sufficient majority in parliament.
The IV had expressed strong reservations about the Corona aid package, which is to be financed largely from the EU aid fund. Its chairman, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, criticized the program for wasting money while lacking long-term investment.
Renzis IV is tiny, but the government has recently relied on its votes several times – especially in the Senate, the smaller of the two chambers of parliament.
Renzi is also at odds with other government parties on other issues. He calls for Italy to apply for a loan through the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to strengthen the health system. The 5-star movement, the largest coalition partner, rejects such a step.
With the departure of the IV, the smoldering crisis in Conte’s government is getting worse. Italian media suspected that Prime Minister Conte wants to avoid new elections amid the pandemic. Alternatively, he could ask the vote of confidence in parliament and look for another majority in parliament.
66 governments since 1946
Conte said he had already spoken to President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday about the escalating dispute in the coalition. Should the government fall after the resignations, Matarella, as head of state, would have an important role in deciding how to proceed.
The current center-left coalition has existed since 2019. After the right-wing extremist Lega of Matteo Salvini left Conte’s alliance, the M5S remained on the side of the head of government. Then there was the Democratic Party (PD) and the now renegade IV. Italy is used to frequent political changes: Conte’s alliance is the 66th government since 1946. The next parliamentary elections are normally not scheduled for 2023.
The Italian health minister Roberto Speranza warned of an “unforgivable” political crisis at the untimely time of the pandemic. The dispute weakens politics in the fight against the virus, and the health of Italians must now come first. Around 80,000 people infected with corona have died in Italy since the beginning of the pandemic.
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