The ruling coalition in Italy is in danger of dissolution due to internal fighting, with the result that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has threatened to quit.
The coalition between the two populist parties, Five Star and The League, was forged after the prior election. Each party was given a ministership that provided control over a key portion of their election plank – The League’s Matteo Salvini was made Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, to further his position as an anti-EU campaigner and to facilitate his anti-immigration positions. Five Star’s Luigi Di Maio was made Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Social Policies, to further his efforts toward a universal basic income, green energy and market regulation.
The two leaders found a non-politician, Conte, to serve as the Prime Minister. Conte accepted the role and has been the public face of Italy on the international scene as a result. He has emerged as the strongest ally for President Trump in the EU, as well as the G-7 and NATO organizations.
For months, however, Salvini and Di Maio have been fighting because of their differing styles and goals. Di Maio has been negotiating for and attempting to implement policy quietly, behind the scenes, while Salvini has been making repeated public statements, forcing Di Maio to publicly agree to policy or risk showing fractures in the coalition.
The result has been that Salvini is now seen as the true leader of Italy by the citizenry. This was made evident in a November poll.
The monthly survey in La Repubblica newspaper showed 58 percent considered Salvini the leader, while 16 percent picked Conte and 14 percent chose Luigi Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.Reuters
Salvini parleyed the perception of control into a strong win for his party in the latest round of EU elections. The League took just over 34% of the votes, while Five Star took only 17%. The shift hardened the infighting, as Salvini’s effective usurpation of the Prime Minister position having paid dividends.
Conte responded to the continued internal frictions with an ultimatum during a live broadcast.
“Of course, and here I want to make it clear to all citizens, I will not in any way carry blithely on or float around with the sole purpose of extending my stay here in this building, the Chigi Palace. If there is not a clear assumption of responsibility as I have requested and if behaviour is not consistent as a consequence, quite simply, with the transparency and loyalty with which I have always tried to inform my actions and in accordance with constitutional procedures, I will put my mandate in the hands of the President of the Republic.”Euronews
If Conte quits, it will trigger new elections in the country… and while Salvini picked up a full third of the votes in the latest round, it is uncertain that he would be able to form a coalition with any large groups other than Five Star. A new round of elections would run the risk of leaving him completely out of power despite his role as the most popular Italian politician. It would also immediately deprive President Trump of one of his few ideological allies on the world stage.