Home » Ambiguous voting suggests Italy’s Dems are faltering over Ukraine

Ambiguous voting suggests Italy’s Dems are faltering over Ukraine

The Democratic Party walked a tightrope by ensuring its support to Kyiv (including by sending weapons) but criticising the use of EU funds to produce weaponry. Last week, its MEPs split over the issue following their leader’s indecisiveness. Is this a strategic repositioning – and will it break the party’s unity?

All’s not right on the left’s Ukraine front. Under its new leader, Elly Schlein, Italy’s Democratic Party has begun to waver on supporting Kyiv by any means possible – including using key EU resources to stock up on ammunition, as reserves have been depleted by shipping ammo to Ukraine.

  • That tendency has emerged over the past days, as two key votes tested the PD’s unity on this issue.

A step back. Last week, the European Parliament approved the Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP). All Italian parties from the governing centre-right coalition backed it, along with the centrists (here’s what this might mean for the EP in 2024), whereas the left voted disjointly.

  • Ms Schlein refrained from giving PD MEPs a clear indication (as the latters took care to highlight), as she had spoken in support of arming the Ukrainian resistance – but against using EU funds to do so, aligning herself with the Five Star Movement, which flatly rejects arming Ukraine.
    • More specifically, she was referred to the EU-bankrolled National Recovery and Resilience Fund, which was originally designed to boost Italy’s economy in the aftermath of the pandemic, and the government now hopes to tweak it to take into account the other challenges that have emerged since then.
  • Nevertheless, ten out of fourteen PD MEPs voted in favour of the ASAP Act, in continuity with the party’s long-held line of creating the conditions necessary for ensuring continued support to Ukraine.

Maintaining ambiguity. Then, on Tuesday, the issue again came to the fore of Italian politics through a 5SM draft law, tabled in the Lower House of the Italian Parliament, intended to prohibit the State from using NRRP funds “to produce weaponry.” And PD MPs supported it, in line with Ms Schlein’s stance.

  • They did, however, request a split vote so as not to support the rest of the draft law, which was critical towards the EU’s ASAP Act and its supposed drive to “move the axis of Europe’s action away from the promotion of peace and towards a war-centred economy.”
  • The governing majority voted that draft law down.

Watch out for the subtexts. That same day, Paolo Ciani – the only PD member to vote against the decree that confirmed Rome would keep supplying arms to Kyiv – was picked to replace Piero De Luca as deputy president of the PD MP group in the Lower House.

  • According to Il Giornale, one of the reasons for this swap might also be the leadership’s willingness to signal a repositioning on Ukraine, bringing the party closer to the 5SM’s “pacifist” line.

How tight is that tightrope? It might well be that this possible repositioning could be dictated by electoral needs, such as building an alliance with the 5SM – especially as recent local elections resulted in the left’s defeat almost everywhere. Also, some in the more leftist PD area are ideologically adjacent to the 5SM on Ukraine and weapons.

  • However, Ms Schlein’s ambiguity has already angered several PD politicians (especially from the more centrist section of the party) who do not intend to water down the party’s support of Ukraine and the push towards a shared, and bolstered, form of European defence.
  • As noted by Lia Quartapelle, an influential PD MP formerly responsible for foreign affairs, ahead of the ASAP vote, the leader’s ambiguity on the matter “would mean breaking the PD’s unity.”

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