July 3, 2020 | News | No Comments
Italy was heading for a new government on Tuesday night after grass-roots supporters of the Five Star Movement voted overwhelmingly in favour of forming a coalition with their longtime enemies, the centre-Left Democratic Party.
The result was the final nail in the coffin of Matteo Salvini’s hopes of forcing a general election in which he had expected to emerge as the country’s next prime minister at the helm of the hard-Right League party.
Nearly 80,000 Five Star members voted online in favour of the alliance with the Democratic Party, with 79 per cent voting yes and just 21 per cent voting no.
"I am very proud of today’s vote and very proud of the government that is to come," said Luigi Di Maio, the head of Five Star.
The result should bring resolution to a weeks-long political crisis, precipitated when Mr Salvini pulled the plug on the previous 14-month-old coalition, a partnership between the League and Five Star.
He had hoped to precipitate an autumn election from which his party, Italy’s most popular with around 32% of the vote, would have emerged victorious in collaboration with the small, far-Right Brothers of Italy party.
But he failed to foresee an unlikely alliance being formed between Five Star and the Democrats, who have had nothing good to say about each other for years.
The yes vote means that Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister-designate, can present Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s president, with a list of suggested ministers. The new line-up will then have to win confidence votes in the two chambers of parliament.
Had Five Star members rejected the deal, Italy would have been heading for elections.
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The hope among Five Star and PD politicians is that they can bury their differences sufficiently so that they can hold together the new government for the rest of the legislature, until 2023.
Many analysts are sceptical as to whether they can last that long, however.
The new government will be a “mismatched coalition between two traditional foes,” said Wolfgango Piccoli, of political risk consultancy Teneo.
Mr Salvini, the outgoing interior minister and deputy prime minister, has claimed that the new administration will be soft on migrants and refugees, in contrast to his policy of closing Italian ports to NGO rescue boats and demanding that other EU countries shoulder the burden of the exodus from Libya.
The new government will have a more pro-EU stance than the previous coalition thanks to the participation of the Democratic Party.
There could be clashes with Brussels, however, over the expansionary 2020 budget that the new allies put forward in a 26-point policy programme.
They called for greater flexibility from the EU to overcome the "excessive rigidity" of existing budget rules.
There was criticism of the small number of voters involved in Tuesday’s online poll.
The 100,000 participants represented a tiny fraction of the 11 million who voted for Five Star in last year’s general election.
The online voting system, called Rousseau after the French philosopher, has been criticised for a lack of oversight and transparency, as well as its vulnerability to hacking.
In April, Italy’s Data Protection Authority imposed a €50,000 fine on the company that runs the platform, saying it had failed to fix its flaws.