A walkout by part of the Five-Star Movement signals turbulence ahead for Italy's coalition as next year's elections draw nearer.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will resist pressure to reshuffle government roles following a split in what had been the biggest party in parliament, but officials fear the implosion of the populist Five-Star Movement signals difficult times ahead for the coalition, sources close to the matter told MNI.
The right-wing League wants a higher profile now that it has been left as the largest party supporting the government, while Five-Star’s leader Guiseppe Conte, himself a former prime minister, could ask for a ministerial role following Tuesday’s decision by Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio to leave the party and form a breakaway centrist grouping.
But Draghi appears determined to resist any pressure.
“Nobody has asked us for anything in private but he prefers not to change his team,” an official close to the prime minister told MNI. The former European Central Bank president turned national leader deliberately left party leaders out when choosing ministers for his technocratic government in 2021 and would prefer to keep it that way, the source added.
A senior official from the centre-left Democratic Party told MNI that the parties involved are such in a weakened position that they “can’t demand anything of Draghi,” who will be able to resist their pressure.
EARLY START TO ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Speculation that Five-Star will leave the government is likely to prove unfounded for now, the official said, partly because even though Conte has felt ignored by Draghi, such a move would endanger the populists’ electoral alliance with the Democratic Party planned for general elections due next spring. The Democrats, Draghi’s most loyal supporters, would have alternative alliance options, including Di Maio’s new party, if Five-Star walked out, the source pointed out.
A former Five Star official who abandoned the party this week along with Di Maio said he thought Conte had been distancing himself from Draghi for some time and would leave the government at the first opportunity, but a source from Conte’s team told MNI that Five-Stars will continue to support the prime minister.
Di Maio’s new grouping, Together for the Future, includes 62 lawmakers across the two houses of parliament, more than a fifth of Five-Star's original support. It was formed after a disagreement between Di Maio and Conte over the war in Ukraine, with the foreign minister in favour of strong support for Kyiv. More Five-Star legislators are likely to defect to Di Maio in the coming weeks, parliamentary sources told MNI.
The impact of the Five-Star split on the government’s ability to function at a time of rising finance costs, and in particular its ability to meet targets agreed with the European Union which have to be met in order to unlock EUR190 billion in NextGenEU funds, is still uncertain. While the government remains confident of achieving H1 targets necessary to access the next EUR19 billion NextGenEU tranche, the outlook for the second half of the year may be more worrying, a Finance Ministry source said. (See MNI: Italy Set To Narrowly Meet Targets For EU19Bln EU Tranche)
“It’s as if the election campaign has now started,” he said.