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Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has managed to cling to power, but he will plough ahead with an even more fragile government as the country battles to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and recession.
Conte, who has led two different administrations since 2018, was supported by 156 lawmakers in the senate on Tuesday, with 140 voting against and 16 abstaining. Conte also won a vote of confidence in the lower house on Monday.
The victory ends the turmoil triggered by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who last week yanked his small Italia Viva party from the ruling coalition, which includes the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Democratic party (PD), over disagreements about the handling of the pandemic and a post-Covid-19 economic recovery plan.
In his speech to senators, Conte accused Italia Viva of having created chaos by persistently making demands that were “clearly divisive”.
“I assure you it’s very hard to govern in these conditions, with people who continuously place mines in our path and try to undermine the political balance patiently reached by the coalition,” Conte said.
He appealed to so-called “constructors” to stave off the government’s collapse in the middle of the pandemic, which has cost over 83,000 lives in Italy, while pledging to shake up his cabinet, modernise the country and swiftly enact the economic recovery plan.
But leading a minority administration paves the way for a precarious period as any divisive issue could jeopardise its survival.
“While minority governments are nothing new in Italy, what will be unprecedented is a minority government (backed by an unwieldly coalition) attempting to lead the country out of the deepest economic crisis since the second world war in the middle of a pandemic while also trying to create a multi-year plan to manage €209bn (£185bn) of recovery funding from the EU,” Wolfango Piccoli, the co-president of the London-based research company Teneo Holdings, wrote in a note.
Conte enjoyed popularity for his handling of the pandemic during the first wave, when the country endured a tough two-month lockdown, but has lost credibility over the government’s haphazard approach to subsequent restrictions and weak financial response to businesses affected.
“I think by now everyone has realised that Conte is very, very good at clinging to power but very, very bad when it comes to managing things and passing reforms,” said Francesco Galietti, the founder of Policy Sonar, a Rome-based political consultancy. “He has passed no reforms and you can tell from the recovery plan that other EU member states are very nervous as over €200bn will go down the drain.”
Renzi had criticised the post-pandemic spending plan as weak, arguing that the money risked being squandered. His other main grievance was over Italy not tapping the EU’s bailout fund – the European stability mechanism – to shore up the health service. M5S has always resisted this, fearing it would leave Italy beholden to strict EU austerity rules.
“Renzi is spot on on these issues,” Galietti said. “And from his perspective this was a bus driving straight into an abyss, and so he wanted to get out of the cockpit.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Giuseppe Conte wins confidence vote in Italy’s senate by slim margin | Italy