Giuseppi Conte is President Trump’s strongest ally in the European Union, and his Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is on the verge of removing him.
Conte was the candidate agreed upon by Italian right-wing parties The League and Five Star, with their respective leaders taking positions as senior cabinet members. The League leader Salvini, as Deputy Prime Minister, has been acting somewhat independently since the initial coalition government was formed and has been growing in influence because of it.
The League’s main policy positions are remaining firm against immigration and being against EU influence in Italian matters. The Euroskepticism shared by Five Star was a strong impetus toward the coalition forming, although Five Star’s Luigi Di Maio’ s focus leaned toward economic and social decisions being free of Brussels influence. While the League wanted to target attention on the immigrants at Italy’s borders, Five Star was looking at things like universal basic income and anti-vaccination laws.
In the most recent elections, Five Star lost roughly half of its Parliament members, decreasing its influence in the coalition. Further stressing the coalition was the revelation of tapes showing an effort to channel tens of millions of dollars from Russian companies into The League’s campaign coffers, as reported by Bloomberg.
Last week the coalition snapped, ostensibly over spending on a new high-speed rail project. Salvini pulled out and demanded that new elections be held immediately. The expectation, based on current polling, is that Salvini would be able to remove Conte, taking his place as Prime Minister.
The effort was stymied by a new alliance between Five Star and the center-left Democratic Party, delaying the new elections at least until Conte addresses the Senate on August 20th. Salvini, as reported by ANSA, responded that new elections were needed, not “strange governments”, indicating a recognition that a Five Star / Democratic Party full coalition could undermine his attempt to become the new Prime Minister.
In any case, Conte is politically crippled. As a candidate of the League/Five Star coalition, if Salvini wins in new elections, he is expected to be pushed from office in favor of Salvini. If a new Five Star / Democratic Party alliance wins the elections, they will likely jettison Conte in favor of a leader without League ties. If new elections are delayed, Conte will face constant pressure from two warring factions within his own government.