Sunday

5th Feb 2023

Italy has a new government, but how stable is it?

The new government of former European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi marks the rise to power of Italy's largest majority in its 75-year old republican history, but challenges lie ahead in defining a common agenda and tackling dissent within the 5 Star Movement.

The six parties forming the ruling alliance, including former opposition groups Forza Italia and League, must now overcome their political differences and work together to implement a shared programme, according to ruling coalition forces.

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Draghi's mixed technocrat-political cabinet of national unity has two top priorities: the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic through the completion of the vaccination campaign and the definition of a plan to efficiently deploy roughly €220 billion in direct European aid through the recovery fund.

The plan must be forwarded to the European Commission by April.

"We need to move quickly to avoid the risk of losing these funds. It's a golden opportunity for Italy and so far little has been done in terms of planning, how to earmark and where to invest the grants and loans. This is now are joint focus", said a Democratic Party official.

"The coming days will be key in defining some kind of framework agenda able to satisfy the different political flagships and targets of parties. A synthesis will be needed", they added.

Draghi is expected to present his programme's guidelines to parliament next week.

His cabinet must then win a vote of confidence in both branches of parliament.

Draghi will first address the Senate on Wednesday, then the lower house on Thursday, with a keynote speech.

If things go smoothly Italy will have a fully operative government by the end of next week.

Will the 5 Star Movement survive?

While Draghi will surely win the confidence vote thanks to the wide majority backing him, the formation of his cabinet has triggered a rupture within the 5 Star Movement, which risks destroying the stability of a key ruling ally.

Even though 5 Star Movement supporters last week backed Draghi through an online vote, giving the movement the green light to be part of the government, tensions between the leadership and some 30 anti-Draghi dissidents have exploded, creating the risk of an internal split.

The 'antagonist' members, who were always critical of Draghi's ECB leadership, threaten a no-confidence vote in parliament if another online referendum is not rescheduled.

"That online referendum was a joke. A mere farce. The question which supporters were asked to vote for was like a stupid riddle. It was deviously formulated to push our electorate to vote yes. It was pure, wicked electioneering, a mockery so it must be repeated with a straight question and the time available for voting must be of at least 24 hours", said a 5 Star Movement rebel.

The voting timeframe was shorter than for previous 5 Star Movement referendums, it lasted only eight hours, with dissident sources noting that a "blitz", or rushed vote was the only way to guarantee Draghi's rise to power.

Supporters were asked to vote on whether they backed the creation of a powerful 'super-ministry' for ecological transition in order to join forces with Draghi, which, according to the rebels has not been created, in this way "fooling" voters.

Now, they are demanding a new online voting to say whether the party should be 'in' or 'out' of the coalition.

"We've lost our original identity, forsaken our values. First the abominable alliance with the Democrats two years ago was hard to digest. Now this disgusting jumble of parties of all colours with historical enemies and former allies which we won't accept", said the 5 Star Movement antagonist.

The party has long faced an internal crisis, lacking a clear leadership and organisation model.

Since their victory in 2018, consensus has dropped and dozens of members have either ditched the movement or switched allegiances, but the party still holds though roughly one third of votes in parliament.

"There's a widening gap between the grassroots voting base and decisions taken by the movement's leadership which is acting like a puppeteer with its puppets, manipulating the communication, and destroying our ideal of direct democracy", said the rebel MP.

The sources argued that while Draghi could still "very well survive without us", the team of 'antagonists' had the power to hamper the legislative process in parliament by blocking or delaying the approval of key laws and measures that land in the technical committees.

The rebels pledge to turn into an opposition force within the majority, while a few have already left the movement.

Meanwhile, Italy is now left with just one official opposition party in parliament, which is already benefitting from the 5 Star Movement's turmoil and the decision of the League to side with Draghi.

The right-wing Brothers of Italy group led by Giorgia Meloni has stated its 'no' to a Draghi government since the start of political negotiations, but is ready to cooperate on key issues such as the fight against the pandemic and the recovery plan.

"We have received tonnes of emails of support from disappointed League and 5 Stars Movement voters who feel betrayed and abandoned and are potentially looking to us for guidance. The 5 Stars were already a limb of the Democrat party, now they're literally evaporating", said a Brothers of Italy deputy.

"The 5 Stars have gone from being an anti-establishment force to being part of the establishment, they've lost their original 'renewal' spirit. The beginning of their end was when they voted for the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission chief and then allied with the Democrats in a new cabinet", added the official.

Brothers of Italy believe tensions among the new ruling allies will erupt as soon as parties get down to discuss thorny issues, including tax and justice reforms.

Author bio

Silvia Marchetti is a Rome-based freelance reporter. She covers finance, economics, travel and culture for a wide range of international media.

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