No resolution yet to Italy's political impasse

Italy continues to fumble its way to a new government, though much is still up in the air. Still, the EU could always muscle in and make things worse. Don't bet against it

Government still out of reach for Matteo Salvini
Tim Hedges
On 24 April 2018 12:05

Nobody is really certain whether it is light relief or a complication, but in the middle of discussions to form a new government there has been a regional election. In Molise.

Molise, which until recently was lumped together with the Abruzzo and named ‘the two Abruzzi’, is either in the northern part of the south or the southern part of the centre. It is east of the Apennines, with a short coastline on the Adriatic Sea and is home to around 300,000 souls. There is little or no work.

The economist Lucio di Gaetano, himself a Molisano, says the population is divided into two: those who have stayed put and would like to leave, and those who have left and would like to return. In fact, around 20% of the electorate live abroad.

And amidst the circus of television vans, vox pops and interviews with regional politicians who will never be heard from again, the people of Molise have spoken. They voted centre-right 44%, 5-Star 32%, Democratic Party 17%. Not that different from the general election in March, perhaps a little stronger for the centre-right and a little weaker for the 5-Star.

Within the centre-right, Berlusconi did a little better than Salvini, but the results were pretty similar. And the importance of the result? Here are two opinions:

Matteo Salvini: President Mattarella must immediately take notice of this when deciding to whom to award the mandate to govern.

Lucio di Gaetano: After all this confusion, who will explain to the poor sap who wins that the governor of Molise counts for f*** all?

With all due respect to the Molisani, the sole effect is to make Salvini less likely to break with the winning coalition and therefore less likely to form a coalition with 5-Star, who will not even negotiate with him while he is allied to Silvio Berlusconi.

Meanwhile in Rome, 150km to the west, nothing much is moving. President Mattarella awarded a mandate to the Speaker of the Senate, Elisabetta Casellati, to explore possibilities and she reported back what everyone knew, that there was too much disagreement between the main protagonists.

Now Mattarella is giving a mandate to Roberto Fico, Speaker of the lower house, to explore the possibilities of a coalition between 5-Star and anyone else. Everyone thinks this will conclude that the numbers just aren’t there.

The badly damaged Democratic Party, like its German counterpart the SPD, have decided that a period of reflection in opposition would be better than being a junior partner in a coalition with the right. The SPD, of course, changed their minds but it is not thought the PD will.

Next, they could be asked if there is anyone they could agree on for leader of a double minority government, a senior establishment figure acceptable to both sides (no, sit down, Silvio) but is this likely?

So poor Mattarella will be forced to ask the two main parties if there is anything they can agree on at all. The inadequacy of the electoral law, perhaps?

In the meantime, Brussels is investigating whether to demand Alitalia repay state aid it received as a bailout. If the Commission isn’t careful, bureaucratic interference in Italy’s affairs might be another piece of common ground between the two parties.

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here


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