Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mayhem in Italy

I do not pretend to be an expert in Italian politics, let alone Italian constitutional law. It is hard enough to follow and understand the constitution in this country.

Nevertheless it is clear that very unusual things are happening in Italian politics.

There is no exact analogy for what has been happening in Italy in British terms, but here goes.

The Northern League is a right-wing party which is Eurosceptic and sees itself as anti-establishment and although not a perfect parallel it isn't a gross distortion of the truth to compare it to an Italian equivalent of UKIP.

Five Star is an anti-establishment left-wing party, also Eurosceptic: it's not a million miles from the truth to say that if you imagine a Italian Eurosceptic version of Momentum which was an independent party in it's own right.

The recent Italian elections produced a hung parliament in which these two are the largest parties and between them have a majority.

As I posted here a few days ago, it does seem more than a little weird that these two parties decided to agree to try to form a government - roughly the equivalent in British terms of a UK/Momentum coalition - with a little known professor of contract law invited to be Prime Minister.

Unusual as this was, the two parties put this to their members and supporters:44,796 members of the Five Star Movement cast their vote online in a poll on the proposed government agreement, and 42,274, more than 94%, voted in favour. The League held a similar online consultation and 215,000 Italian citizens took part. of whom around 91% supported the proposed government agreement.

This evidence that the proposed government did have the support of the people who elected the parties which would have comprised it makes what has happened next is all the more extraordinary.

The Northern League and Five Star managed to agree on a proposed list of ministers - but the President of Italy, Sergio Matarella, refused to appoint them because he was not prepared to appoint the nominated Finance minister, Paolo Savona, who he allegedly regards as too Eurosceptic because of Savona's previously expressed view that Italy should leave the Euro. 

The League and Five star refused to proceed on the basis of allowing the President a veto over their ministerial choices so President Mattarella asked Carlo Cottarelli who is is a former IMF official to form an interim government, pending fresh elections which will take place next year if he can get the support of parliament or in the autumn if he cannot.

So in British terms, it is as if UKIP and Momentum had combined majority in the House of Commons, and agreed a slate of ministers, but the Queen refused to appoint them because she was not prepared to accept an opponent of the Euro as Chancellor, instead appointed her own Prime Minister who was a former international banker with no political party to support him, and said that there would be fresh elections.

If the Queen were ever daft enough to try something like that here in Britain, the most likely result would be that in the subsequent election for the parties which had been prevented from forming a government would find it easy to campaign on the basis that they had been voted in by the people and robbed of power by an establishment stitch-up. I'd expect both those parties to increase their share of votes and seats, making Italy more likely to go further down the road which President Mattarella was trying to avoid.

Five Star was founded by a comedian but it is the President of Italy who has been acting like one this week. I really don't see how this ends well.

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