Not again. The theatrics produced by former PM Giuseppe Conte and the remnants of his Five Star Movement (5SM) is already seen outside of Italy as the foundation for a government crisis.
- The Economist recently regarded Italy as “the latest victim of Ukraine-related divisions,” noting that “public opinion does not support action.” And the Italian populists have been eager to represent the more Putin-friendly side of the country.
- As the British outlet notes, “Mr Conte frequently cosied up to Vladimir Putin. And over recent weeks, he and most of his lawmakers have criticised arms shipments to Ukraine.”
- Bloomberg, too, regards him as the man endangering Italy’s military support to Kyiv.
Shaky politics. Mr Conte has repeatedly threatened to pull the 5SM’s support from Mario Draghi’s coalition government. The latter’s position is simple: his executive was born to act and cannot go on with ultimatums and threats. He said he is ready to call it quits should the 5SM breakaway.
- Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, a longtime leader within the 5SM, ended up leaving the party with 70 MPs – an “Atlanticist split” provoked by Mr Conte’s wobbling support and counterproductive stances.
Down to the wire. On Thursday, Italian MPs will have to vote to send more aid, including military aid, to Ukraine. If the 5SM vote against, they’ll effectively open up a government crisis, which will slow down the PM’s international agenda – and thus endanger Italy’s support to Ukraine.
- According to the Kiel Institute, Italy has allocated roughly €774 million for refugees, ammunition, weapons, and economic aid since the start of the war. That makes it the eighth biggest donor, globally.
- Last month, Mr Draghi solemnly promised to support the Ukrainian resistance in several international fora – such as the NATO Summit in Madrid and the G7 meeting in Elmau. But given the possible consequences of the 5SM’s latest impulses, Italy might not live up to its commitment.
Mediations and electoral boutades. Mr Conte and Mr Draghi have been talking for the better part of the last few days, with the former presenting a list of requests to guarantee his support and the latter noting there’s “convergence” and offering to address all the issues at hand.
- There are other variables, too. The electoral campaign for the spring 2023 elections has begun, and the 5SM has been haemorrhaging consensus over the past years.
- While some MPs are encouraging Mr Conte to perform a showdown, others have been pushing him to pull the plug. It’s no coincidence that the more Atlanticist wing of the party have left it along with Mr Di Maio.
No way to go on. It’s hard to imagine the government operating efficiently when it’s forced into a continuous stop-and-go race and must drag itself back to the negotiating table every time the 5SM trembles.
- Amid a clouded macroeconomic outlook and the country’s EU-funded recovery plan to implement, sticking to the timetable is no minor effort.
- Also, this “handbrake” risks cracking the international credibility that Italy has carved out in recent months, not without difficulty.
And no way to hold the fort. The Western front is somewhat weaker. The United Kingdom is grappling with the post-Boris Johnson situation; the last electoral round has greatly reduced President Emmanuel Macron’s prowess. Hence, Rome is all the more crucial for the compactness of the Euro-Atlantic front. And the 5SM’s actions are all the more consequential.