Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 43° Partly Cloudy
News >  World

Italy’s bitter political foes unite in bid to foil Salvini

Designate premier Giuseppe Conte delivers his speech after a meeting with President Sergio Mattarella at Rome's Quirinale presidential palace, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Italy's president has given the recently resigned premier, Giuseppe Conte, a fresh mandate to see if he can cobble together a new government backed by the populist 5-Star Movement and center-left Democrats. (Alessandro Di Met/ANSA via AP) ORG XMIT: ANS101 (Alessandro Di Meo / AP)
Designate premier Giuseppe Conte delivers his speech after a meeting with President Sergio Mattarella at Rome's Quirinale presidential palace, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Italy's president has given the recently resigned premier, Giuseppe Conte, a fresh mandate to see if he can cobble together a new government backed by the populist 5-Star Movement and center-left Democrats. (Alessandro Di Met/ANSA via AP) ORG XMIT: ANS101 (Alessandro Di Meo / AP)
By Colleen Barry and Giada Zampano Associated Press

ROME (AP) – Days after stepping down, Italy’s ex-premier accepts the role of premier-designate Thursday in a bid to cobble together a new coalition of long-time political foes with the aim of blocking a power grab by Matteo Salvini, the right-wing leader whose anti-migrant crackdowns and euroskeptic provocations have dominated Italian politics for more than a year.

But even if Giuseppe Conte, a 55-year-old law professor whose political career spans 14 months at the helm of a mostly squabbling populist coalition, succeeds in building a new majority between the grass-roots 5-Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party, political analysts warn it may not last.

`’Weak leadership and significant intra-party cleavages … will limit the shelf-life” of any coalition government between the two parties, which were bitter enemies until just days ago, said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the Teneo consultancy.

Another government collapse would likely set the country back on course to new elections, which could play straight into the hands of Salvini, the leader of the right-wing, anti-migrant League party.

Salvini, whose popularity soared as he grabbed the spotlight with hard-line policies blocking Italian ports to humanitarian rescue ships carrying migrants, is already crying foul, accusing the 5-Stars and the Democratic Party of engineering a plan to block his ascent to power.

On Thursday, he called for a demonstration in Rome on Oct. 19 to protest any outcome that doesn’t lead to fresh elections.

`’We need to be heard against this theft of democracy,” Salvini said in a Facebook direct video.

Salvini plunged Italy into crisis when he withdrew support for Conte earlier this month in a bid to force new elections that he was convinced the League would win. Salvini was emboldened by his strong showing in this spring’s European elections as well as local votes and political surveys that showed the League had nearly doubled its support since the 2018 elections, while that of the 5-Stars had fallen by half.

But Salvini didn’t count on the former political foes closing ranks. And he is set to lose both his role as Italy’s powerful interior minister in charge of migrant policy and his position as vice premier if a new government is installed.

The 5-Star Movement and Democrats are an unlikely alliance. The two parties have long traded barbed insults and just last year, the Democratic Party refused to even consider talks with the 5-Star Movement after inconclusive March 2018 national elections that eventually led to the 5-Star coalition with the League.

But in accepting the challenge to create a new coalition, the head of the Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, said the parties intended to end `’the season of hatred, of rancor and of fear.”

Salvini’s move created political instability that once again focused investor attention on Italy, raising borrowing costs on its stubbornly high debt which eased after President Sergio Mattarella formally tapped Conte as premier-designate. Italy also faces a critical fall deadline for drafting a budget for the European Union, with the looming prospect of raising the value-added tax to cover shortfalls.

Conte is seen as an ally of the 5-Stars, even though the law professor had no party affiliation when he became premier in June 2018. He kept a relatively low profile during the 5-Star-League government, but before handing in his resignation on Aug. 20, he blasted Salvini for forcing his government to collapse.

Conte immediately began meetings with parties Thursday, and said he will work hard to give the country a solid government as Rome faces key decisions and a delicate political phase.

“We’re at the beginning of a new legislature and we need to make up for the time we’ve lost to allow Italy to recover its central role in Europe,” Conte said.

He stressed that a new government would not be “against someone” – a clear reference to Salvini – but said the government needed to act quickly to name Italy’s candidate for the new European Commission and to draft a complex budget law.

“This is a very delicate phase for the country,” Conte said. “We need to exit political uncertainty as quickly as possible.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.



American families feeling the pinch of COVID-19 pandemic

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index asked about 1,330 adult Americans in different income brackets a variety of questions, including how their finances are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy COUNTRY Financial)
Sponsored

The year 2020 hasn’t been the most forgiving year for families and their pocketbooks.