The Irish Times view on Italy’s political turmoil: the odd couple

An unexpected coalition between Five Star and the Democratic Party would be better than the alternative, but it would face formidable challenges

Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s premier-designate, arrives to speak during a news conference following a meeting with Italian president Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Thursday. Photograph: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s premier-designate, arrives to speak during a news conference following a meeting with Italian president Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Thursday. Photograph: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

 

Matteo Salvini thought he had pulled off a masterstroke when he brought down his own coalition government three weeks ago. Now it looks like a spectacular miscalculation. With opinion polls pointing to a surge in support for his far-right Lega party, Salvini moved to cash in on his popularity, assuming he could leave his coalition partner, the “anti-establishment” Five Star Movement, in his wake and lead a new administration propped up by smaller right-wing outfits.

Instead of triggering an election, however, Italian president Sergio Matterella consulted with the main parties and found a willingness to talk among an unlikely pairing: Five Star and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The idea that the two biggest groupings in parliament could overcome their mutual animosity at first seemed far-fetched, but late on Wednesday, after more than a week of negotiations, Matterella offered outgoing prime minister Giuseppe Conte – a technocrat considered close to Five Star – a new mandate at the head of a Five Star-PD coalition.

It will be another uneasy cohabitation between two long-time rivals

The breakthrough caps a remarkable three weeks in Italian politics. The deal is not done yet: the two sides still need to agree on a policy platform and a team of ministers, while Five Star’s pledge to put the proposed agreement with the PD to an online vote of its members could scupper the plan. But if the deal is done, Italy will have a markedly more pro-European government and one with a better chance of tempering Five Star’s worst populist impulses. The administration will be all the better for Salvini’s absence.

But any new coalition will face immense challenges. Almost immediately, it will have to face a difficult budget where at least €23 billion in savings must be found if the country is to avoid a rise in VAT and censure from the EU. It will be another uneasy cohabitation between two long-time rivals, meaning a long, stable arrangement is unlikely. And while Salvini will be out of power, he will also become the leading opposition voice in Italy, putting him in a strong position for a general election that may not be far in the distance.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.