Mattarella, a “cold-war” leader with the power to propel Italians forward or backwards in time
The present government crisis was brought about by the Lega, one of the two political allies dubbed “populists” or “extremists” by the Country’s “mainstream” press and traditional parties. Moved more by fear of the unknown than any real threat to democracy, the "mainstream" press and traditional parties, can’t wait to return to the familiar multi-party government coalitions of the past.
Yesterday, the so-called “Premier”, Mr. Conte, resigned after a fifty minute speech in Parliament during which he did nothing but compliment himself for a job well done, blaming the crisis entirely and solely on the Minister of the Interior and Leader of the Lega Party, Matteo Salvini.
The issue today went before President Mattarella who this morning accepted Conte’s resignation tout court, i.e. without the customary “with reservations”. The Government is therefore officially defunct and in caretaker mode now and Conte is out of the picture. The Lega Party, while still in the caretaker Government, is unable to rally round enough support from potential allies in Parliament to challenge a return of the traditional Left to power, should the ex-Communist now PD or Dems and M5S reach some kind of agreement.
Mattarella will be meeting with political leaders of the various parties and groups represented in Italy’s 1000 - man parliament to sei if there is any possibility of expressing a majority strong enough to form and carry the Executive for what remains of this Legislature’s 5-year Term. If there is little or no possibility, Mattarella should send Italians to the polla ASAP. All eyes will be on the Dems and M5S and Mattarella to see what is ultimately decided.
In a departure from what customary in Italian politics, the two coalition partners had worked together for about fourteen months, generally without airing their differences and behaving like gentlemen in public. The Premier, Conte and two Vice-Premiers (Di Maio) and (Salvini) had mostly behaved in a civil manner. This in contrast to the quarrelsome history of the sixty-five shaky governments during the first sixty years of the Republic.
It is unlikely that the PD (Dems) and the M5S will be able to reach a strong enough agreement for a return to the days of the “Divine” Giulio Andreotti. Luckily for Italians, Zingaretti and Di Maio do not quite measure up and General Elections are probable.
The risk, however, is that Mattarella opt for a “government of the President” and call in someone like Cottarelli to head an “institutional government”. Such a government would have the limited scope of legislating a new Budget and a new electoral law with even lower thresholds for electing MPs to Parliament in efforts to reverse the present, quasi-bi-polar system, and return Italy to the weak multi-party system of the Fifties and Sixties under cold-war leaders like D’Alema, Prodi, and Berlusconi. Such a move could backfire and rekindle centrifugal forces calling for an independent North.