Italian Premier-designate Giuseppe Conte declared late last week that a new hastily-formed coalition would lead a “more united, inclusive” country following the collapse of the country’s populist government. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the center-left Democratic Party (PD), once bitter foes, agreed to govern in coalition in order to stave off snap elections in Italy.
“We must transform this crisis into an opportunity,” Conte said, insisting that Italy would once more become a key player in Europe after 14 months of a populist, anti-EU government. The new government would create “a fairer, more competitive, more united, more inclusive country.”
The former academic, who was chosen as Prime Minister last year, was handed a fresh mandate by the President and said he would take a few days for political consultations to ensure a parliamentary majority. Conte indicated it was a “very delicate phase” for Italy, citing an economic slowdown in Europe and trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
“We have to make up for lost time so Italy can play the leading role (in Europe) that a founding country deserves,” Conte said.
The crisis was triggered on in early August, when popular far-right leader Matteo Salvini pulled his far-right League party out of the governing coalition with M5S, calling for fresh elections that he thought would make him Premier. President Mattarella has been racing to find a solution to the political turmoil, with Italy facing a mountain of debt and is under pressure by the European Union to approve a budget in the coming months.
M5S chief Luigi Di Maio has said the deal with the PD will have to be approved by his party’s members in an online vote. Conte said he would “immediately get to work on a budget that will counteract the increase in VAT, protect savers and give a solid perspective of growth and social development.”
He said the new coalition’s priorities would include improving infrastructure, boosting renewable energies and fighting tax evasion, but notably did not mention immigration, which has been Salvini’s political obsession.
Had the PD and M5S been unable to form a solid majority, the President would likely have called an early election for November.
Analysts have warned a M5S-PD deal could favor Salvini in the end, should the hastily forged accord come undone at the seams over the coming months. Both the M5S and the Democratic Party could lose support for forging the previously unthinkable alliance.
Far-right leader Matteo Salvini said the new set-up would be fragile and unlikely to last. “So we have to wait six months or a year to win? We’re in no hurry,” he said.