Salvini era is over as Italy moves toward pro-EU government
Italy’s anti-establishment 5Star Movement got the green light from party members in an online vote on Tuesday to form a new coalition government with the center-left Democratic Party (PD).
Rome will then switch from the first populist government in Western Europe to another first — a ruling alliance between an established party and self-declared populists — and take a stance that's more focused on the EU and less on Russia.
The 5Stars announced on Tuesday evening that 79 percent of the nearly 80,000 people who took part in the vote back the deal. Their previous partners, the right-wing League, brought down Europe’s first post-war populist government after 15 months by calling a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. League leader Matteo Salvini’s bid to trigger a new election backfired and banished him to the opposition.
“Now we have [to go] the last mile,” 5Star leader Luigi Di Maio said in a press conference after the vote, referring to the need for a list of Cabinet ministers.
As for Salvini, he attacked the new government, saying in a tweet that the parties' only common denominator is “hatred towards the League.” He added that the new government “will reopen ports and borders” and in another tweet predicted that the new coalition won't last long.
The vote was deemed essential for the formation of the new government. If party members had voted down the deal, Di Maio, who didn't make clear how he would vote, would have had to withdraw his support for the new alliance. However, 5Star rules say the vote could have been repeated if deemed necessary by the movement's founder, comedian Beppe Grillo.
The 5Stars and Democratic Party make an unlikely couple, as the former was founded as a rejection of established parties like the PD. The new government was made possible by abrupt U-turns from key players like the former PD leader Matteo Renzi and by Grillo himself.
“Now we go to change Italy,” the leader of the PD Nicola Zingaretti wrote on Facebook.
The new government will be less confrontational toward Brussels than the 5Stars/League, especially on migration where Salvini’s hard-line stance put him at odds with Italy’s EU partners. The 5Stars and PD will attempt to strike a balance between growth-boosting economic measures and a more cautious approach to the budget than the outgoing formation, according to a draft of their joint policy program.
“First of all, we aim to change the Stability Pact rules and all the austerity measures that have put a brake on the European economy and especially on the Italian one,” said a note from Tiziana Beghin, head of the 5Star delegation in the European Parliament.
Conte, an independent who is close to the 5Stars, will stay on as prime minister. He's expected to present a list of ministers to President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday, when the new government is expected to be sworn in. A vote of confidence in the two chambers will take place either later this week or at the beginning of next week.
A League official, Andrea Crippa, claimed that up to nine 5Stars lawmakers in the Senate could leave the party to join the League, making it more difficult to reach the required majority of 161 votes. But there has been no official confirmation of the claim.
The new government is expected to have Di Maio as foreign minister and Roberto Gualtieri, chair of the European Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, as economy minister. At the interior ministry, which was in Salvini's hands, is expected to be a non-political figure, such as migration expert Luciana Lamorgese.
As for the Italian nominee for the European Commission, party officials say the name is expected will be made official after the vote of confidence, with an indication of the name expected Wednesday or Thursday.