Italy’s League to present no-confidence motion in govt

Andrew Cummings
August 9, 2019

Italy's populist government edged toward collapse Thursday evening, with far-right leader Matteo Salvini calling for new elections and saying the country's two quarrelsome coalition members were no longer functioning as a majority.

Conte, who had held separate talks with Salvini and the country's president, Sergio Mattarella, said it was not up to the deputy prime minister to summon parliament and "dictate the steps of the political crisis".

The partners have been battling each other on a wide range of issues since they came to power past year, but the situation reached tipping point with a clash over a high-speed train line between Italy and France.

The tensions of the frayed coalition intensified this week over an European Union -funded high-speed rail link (known as TAV) with France.

However, if he does not, Mr Conte can continue as Italy's Prime Minister.

"Let's go straight to parliament to say there is no longer a majority. and quickly go back to the voters", he said.

A snap election would only be called if it proves impossible to form a new government without it.

Salvini urged lawmakers on Friday to return to parliament in Rome and break their summer vacations. He said it was not up to the interior minister to convene parliament and said Salvini relied on "slogans" to gain support. This week the Senate voted the project down, and after a meeting with Conte, Salvini announced his plans. Both the League and the 5-Star Movement have said they don't want to see a government formed of non-political technocrats.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio fired back, saying his 5-Star Movement was not afraid of snap elections. But while Salvini wants immediate vote, Di Maio sought to postpone it until after parliament gave its final approval to a reform reducing the number of lawmakers, a vote that had been scheduled for early September.

(Earlier in the day, Italian media suggested that the League was pushing for a Cabinet reshuffle to, among other changes, replace Economy Minister Giovanni Tria, a technocrat, with a new minister closer to the League's Euroskeptic ideas.) But this scenario seems hard considering the bad blood between the League and the Five Star Movement.

The League voted against a Five Star motion to scrap the multibillion-euro project linking Turin to Lyon by a tunnel under the Alps.

After the vote, Salvini told supporters in the coastal town of Sabaudia "that something broke in the last months" in the governing coalition.

The vote on the rail link was "just the latest, clear, irreparable" sign of the sharp differences between the parties.

In his comments Wednesday, Salvini noted that the 5-Star's pet electoral promise, basic income, which the government passed, was a handout that did not create jobs. The aim of the legislation is to build on the security-and-migrantion decree that was approved a year ago and was also drafted Salvini, who has spearheaded the government's tough stance of denying NGO-run migrant-rescue ships access to Italian ports. He could also choose to install a technical government in order to pass the 2020 budget in the autumn, but that option is unpopular with all parties.

Salvini's anti-migrant, anti-NGO stance is credited with the League's surge in popularity. Surveys put support for the party now at 38%. Its support hovers at 17% now.

Most of all, he took issue with suggestions that the government was in a stalemate. But Conte has said it should be up to the lower chamber that decides whether the government has confidence in him. At one of those events, on Wednesday night, Salvini spoke nearly wistfully about the first months of the coalition, but said, "I don't deny that in the last three months, something changed, something broke".

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