The end of a bumpy road – The Italian government is formed

International Analyst

More than two months after parliamentary elections in Italy, an Italian government has finally formed. But the road leading here hasn’t been easy. After protracted negotiations and compromises, the leaders of the Lega and Five Star Movement parties reached a deal on a government to be led by Giuseppe Conte, who was accepted by both parties – but Italian President Sergio Mattarella prevented the formation of a government. Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio proposed Paolo Savona, considered a eurosceptic, for the role of Minister of Economy and Finances. The president explained his decision as a move to preserve the stability of the country. The decision upset many people and raised questions of legality. The Italian electorate used its right to vote during the democratic election on March 4 and took a clear stand against the previous political direction, thus demonstrating its dissatisfaction. A decisive majority of eligible voters cast their votes for anti-establishment and anti-immigration parties. Since Lega and the Five Star Movement did not propose a new candidate for Minister of Economy and Finances, the Italian president, ignoring the will of the voters, designated former IMF director Carlo Cottarelli as prime minister of a caretaker government which would have led the country until early elections could be held. The choice of Cottarelli was a clear message to voters: if you are unable to “make a responsible decision”, then it will be made for you from above. Mattarella’s decision showed that the elite ignores the decisions of citizens and will not allow a government formed by democratically elected parties to take power, but will instead act on behalf of the interests of investors. It is probable that Brussels played a role in this as well since it was not in its interests for another southern European country to fall into crisis. Moreover, it was displeased that anti-immigration parties should come into power that represent the interests of the country rather than serving Brussels. However, the elite did not anticipate that the popularity of the two parties, and especially that of Salvini, would continue to grow following the decision.

The political crisis didn’t end with Mattarella’s decision. Salvini and Di Maio entered new negotiations in which Di Maio proposed Paolo Savona a post other than Minister of Economy and Finances, thus avoiding the need for a caretaker government and the announcement of new elections. The negotiations were successful. Savona became Minister of European Affairs while economist and university professor Giovanni Tria became Minister of Economy and Finances. The identity of the prime minister was still in question for a time, but the previously proposed jurist and university professor Giuseppe Conte accepted the role. His cabinet received the necessary majority of votes to form a government both in the chamber of deputies and in the senate.

After this description of the political events in Italy, it is worth taking a look at some of the reaction in Germany following the formation of the Italian government. The 6 June cover of Der Spiegel, a liberal weekly magazine, featured a fork wrapped in spaghetti forming a noose at its end, and the subtitle, “Ciao amore! Italy is destroying itself, and Europe along with it.” The magazine’s multiple-page cover story presents the events in Italy as a tragedy. The author of one of Spiegel’s online articles calls the Italian people parasites who cannot even be called beggars, since beggars at least express thanks for being given money. It is important to note that several German papers had earlier made disparaging statements about the southern European country and its citizens. This tone served merely to further increase the prejudice between the populations of the two countries, which is not in anyone’s interests. The articles clearly imply that a government has formed in Rome that does not meet the expectations of the authors. Within this public mood, things will be difficult for the new government if it wants to stay on its feet while bolstering Italy’s sovereignty and reducing its economic and financial dependence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a long interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, expressed her conviction that every electoral result and every democratically elected government deserves respect. The more the two countries treat each other with respect and take into account their mutual interests, the better the cooperation will be between them. It can only be hoped that future dialogue between Rome and Berlin will take shape with this in mind.