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Italy: Salvini faces challenges

August 12, 2019

The leader of Italy's far-right League, Matteo Salvini, has been met with defiance over his plans to hold a no-confidence vote. Salvini could become Italy's leader if the snap elections he wants are held in October.

Matteo Salvini
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Solaro

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been meeting with mounting resistance to his plans for holding snap elections, with both his former coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement (M5S), and the center-left opposition maneuvering to prevent a no-confidence vote against the government.

Salvini ended his far-right League's increasingly tense 14-month-old alliance with the M5S led by Luigi Di Maio last week and filed for a no-confidence vote he hopes will trigger new elections as early as October.

But that plan is encountering resistance from the other parties, which are concerned that snap elections will plunge Italy into crisis and install Salvini as Italy's new premier. Salvini needs the support of other parties for the no-confidence vote to succeed.

Caretaker government on the table

Former Italian premier Matteo Renzi, who still maintains influence in the center-left Democratic Party, proposed Sunday that parties across the political spectrum unite to form a technocratic caretaker government to "save" the country from taking an "extremist" path.

"I am convinced there is a majority for an institutional government in a position to save Italy," Renzi said on Facebook and in interviews with the Corriere della Sera daily and Canale 5 television.

"It would be crazy to go vote" at a time Italy is preparing to present its 2020 budget to parliament and the European Commission in October, said Renzi, who was premier from early 2014 to late 2016.

For his part, Di Maio on Sunday called holding snap elections "foolish and dangerous."

He also called for a vote on cutting the number of lawmakers in parliament by a third before going into an election.

Salvini accused his rivals on Sunday of trying to save their seats and keep him from power.

"Under-the-table stitch-ups, palace intrigues, technocrat or caretaker administrations will not stop Italians who want a strong government," he said on Facebook on Sunday.

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Polls favor Salvini

While the Democratic Party and M5S diverge on a number of issues, they have an incentive to cooperate to counter Salvini's plans.

The League is currently polling at 36-38%, double its share in last year's elections, which saw M5S emerge as the largest party in parliament. M5S is now polling at around 17%, half of what it secured in the last election.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is polling around 23%, up from the 19% it received after receiving a drubbing in the 2018 election.

Decision time

The showdown is set to intensify as parliamentary groups prepare to decide when a no-confidence vote will be held. Salvini wants a vote this week and called on League lawmakers to come back to Rome on Monday despite a summer recess, while other parties are pushing for a date around August 20.

The heads of the parliamentary groups meet Monday to set a date on discussing the League's no-confidence motion.

The decision to call an election lies with President Sergio Mattarella, who is opposed to doing so in October, when Italy's budget will likely create another stand-off with the European Union over borrowing and high debt levels.

Salvini's bid to topple the government triggered a sell-off in Italian bonds over concerns the eurozone's third-largest economy will be plunged into political turmoil. 

cw/tj (AFP, Reuters)

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