Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Italian parliament leaders to meet over Conte’s fate

Bloomberg

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, right, takes a selfie with supporters during his “Italian summer tour” in Taormina, Sicily, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Italian parliament leaders were to meet yesterday to decide whether Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte would have to face a no-confidence vote as the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party consider an alliance to delay Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s bid to take control of the government.

Talks envision supporting a new “institutional” government after the likely collapse of the one led by Conte in a confidence vote in the coming weeks, but the plan is already sowing discord inside the parties that would be supporting it.

The goal would be to lay the foundations for next year’s budget, avoiding an automatic VAT increase that is worth 23 billion euros (US$26 billion) and possibly changing the voting system.

The Italian government is in a state of turmoil after Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant League, asked for a confidence vote last week, effectively ending his party’s awkward coalition with Five Star.

The two groups fought incessantly since they took the helm of the government in Rome more than a year ago, and Salvini has asked for a vote in parliament as soon as this week.

“We’re ready to draft the budget,” Salvini said in an interview with Bloomberg on Sunday. “The earlier we get to vote, the earlier we can get started on the budget, which we already have a clear plan for in mind.”

To speed up the vote, Salvini is considering pulling out ministers from his League party from the government, forcing Conte to step down, according to the newspaper Il Messaggero.

A tie-up between the Democrats and Five Star is unlikely given that the two have traded insults and have been at odds on almost every major issue for years.

However, it is a signal of the obstacles that Salvini faces after he pulled the plug on his fractious coalition with Five Star and called for “swift” elections to capitalize on soaring poll ratings.

Salvini wants the vote of no confidence this week, but a postponement to Tuesdasy next week or beyond is likely. This in turn will delay a potential dissolution of parliament to later in the month, with a possible date for voting no earlier than late October.

The ultimate power to dissolve parliament rests with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, but it is unlikely he will do so if enough lawmakers pledge to support a new government.

Still, despite the shared goal of hemming in Salvini, the chances of an alliance remain slim. Five Star wants parliament to quickly approve a law that would drastically slash the number of lawmakers, even before the fate of Conte’s government is decided.

The Democrats oppose that.

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