Italy’s warring coalition parties warn of government collapse

ITALY : The leaders of Italy’s coalition partners the League and 5-Star Movement warned on Thursday the government could collapse following mutual recriminations over the election of the next European Commission president.

Italy coalition government, Italy government, European Commission president

While the League voted against the mainstream German candidate Ursula von der Leyen for the powerful EU post, the 5-Star backed her this week in the European Parliament, with its support proving decisive in guaranteeing her promotion.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads 5-Star, said the League position risked isolating Italy, while League leader Matteo Salvini accused his partner of betraying ordinary voters after promising to bring radical change to Europe. “There is a lack of trust, even at a personal level,” said Salvini, who serves as both deputy prime minister and interior minister in the government.

“If there is no further point in continuing with this government, then we will head to elections,” he told reporters.

Di Maio also bemoaned the worsening ties and said the League’s threats to quit the coalition had to stop. “If the League wants to topple the government, then it must say so clearly,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.

Italian political commentators have long speculated that the window for a government collapse would close on July 20, because after that date any new election would be pushed too deep into the autumn to enable the 2020 budget to be approved — key legislation around which the political calendar is built.

Italy has never held an election in the autumn or winter.

Rumours of a possible coalition crisis surged on Thursday evening when it emerged that Salvini had requested to see President Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s political powerbroker.

A senior official said no date had been set for the meeting, adding that the interior minister had not explained what he wanted to talk about. Speaking on a late night TV show, Salvini denied planning to hand in his resignation to the head of state.

“No government is going to fall tomorrow,” he told Rete 4 television. “I am going ahead calmly … but if I have to hear ‘no’ everyday then it gets difficult,” he said, referring to what he sees as 5-Star foot-dragging on various initiatives.