Analysis: Political issues, desperation behind 5-star ambush of Italian Draghi


Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gestures as he holds a news conference at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2020. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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ROME, July 14 (Reuters) – The Italian government is once again in the balance. Despite war and economic turmoil destabilizing the world, the culprit here is one this country has seen time and time again: a political party fighting for survival.

Since winning 33% of the vote in the last national election in 2018, the 5 Star Movement has been in three governments, but has hemorrhaged half of its lawmakers to rival groups and seen its popular support plummet. about two-thirds.

Late Wednesday, its leader Giuseppe Conte announced that the party would not take part in a Senate vote of confidence in Mario Draghi’s government, shattering the fragile unity of the broad coalition and casting doubt on the government’s future. Read more

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Draghi easily won the vote of confidence even without 5 stars, but the prime minister had upped the ante by saying he would not govern without his support, and headed for a consultation with the head of state on the opportunity to continue his duties.

Relations between former Prime Minister Conte and his successor have been souring for months, but behind the move lies a mix of political grievances, political calculation and likely a hint of desperation, politicians and analysts said.

“We should look at Conte’s motivations from two points of view: political and political,” said Eugenio Pizzimenti, a professor of politics at the University of Pisa.

In terms of politics, Conte had decided that a “break” was needed for 5-Star to carve out a clear leftist identity for itself, abandoning its origins as a post-ideological protest movement that rejected leftist and rightist labels. .

In terms of policy, the party felt isolated as Draghi and his coalition partners largely ignored its positions on economic and foreign policy and dismantled, watered down or publicly criticized many of its flagship policies.

These included subsidies on energy-efficient home renovations, a program to discourage the use of cash, its “citizens’ wage” anti-poverty program and, in foreign policy, arms deliveries. to Ukraine which 5 stars oppose.

Conte referenced some of those issues in his address to 5-star lawmakers on Wednesday, and the sense of grievance was clear among several of his politicians in parliament the following day.

“For some parties in power, the only objective of these 18 months has been to dismantle all our measures,” said 5-star Senate leader Maria Castellone.


For 5-Star, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the government’s decision to include among the measures in Thursday’s confidence motion the construction of a huge garbage incinerator in Rome. 5-Star has a strong green bent and has always opposed incinerators in favor of recycling.

“In the case of the incinerator, we offered a compromise but they never even discussed it with us,” said 5-star lower house MP Luca Carabetta.

However, many commentators argue that these political questions were mere pretexts, or at least secondary to Conte’s belief that dumping government responsibility and entering the opposition was only the only way to revive the electoral fortune of 5 stars.

“The 5-Star leaders have been planning this for months to end the Draghi government,” said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, a former 5-Star leader who left the party last month, taking with him around 60 of its legislators.

“They hope to launch a 9-month election campaign to improve their rankings in the polls.”

Right-wing leader Giorgia Meloni has shown the benefits of being in opposition in times of economic hardship. Support for her Italian Brotherhood party has grown since she refused to take part in Draghi’s “national unity” government 17 months ago, and it is now leading opinion polls.

Pizzimenti, a professor at the University of Pisa, said the 5-star’s decline from its anti-establishment heyday was such that it “no longer really exists” and instead became Conte’s personal instrument, which retains high approval ratings.

“5-Star was crippled in the Draghi government and now it has to give itself a new identity,” he said.

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Written by Gavin Jones; Editing by Alison Williams

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