Italy 2018: Interim government, early elections

It seemed as if the Lega and Five Star Movement (M5s) were about to form a coalition, and then things turned. The mostly ceremonial President refused the coalition’s proposed finance minister, and now the coalition plan is off.

President Sergio Mattarella has tasked Carlo Cottarelli, a non-politician (till now, that is), to form a government, with elections to be held in early 2019. However, if the government is unable to get a program approved in parliament, which the BBC (second link above) says it probably can’t, elections could be this August.

Further, the BBC reports, “A source from Five Star told Reuters the party could campaign with the League in a fresh vote.”

Recall from the previous F&V discussion that the new electoral system is not proportional–although about 5/8 of the seats are indeed allocated proportionally. The other 3/8 are elected in single-seat districts, and thus it is a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system.

Encouraged by the majoritarian component of the system, several parties had joined together in pre-electoral alliances. However, emphatically, the Lega and M5s were not in such an alliance. Moreover, the Lega was in alliance with other parties, including Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which were not going to be in this proposed post-election coalition. (See summary of how the electoral system affected the results.)

The breaking of a pre-election alliance–in which the parties presented joint candidacies for the single-seat districts–would always tend to be difficult, and troubling from a representative “mandates” perspective. So, from this perspective, it is arguably good that it will not happen, even if it is a bit anomalous how it came about. That is, the president–chosen by parliament, not the people–would not normally be expected to intervene in this manner in a coalition’s choice of a minister. (It is within his powers, but still unusual.)

I do not claim knowledge of the current Italian political moment, but I have to assume that Lega and M5s actually wanted an election and were quite willing to provoke a crisis. Otherwise, surely they could have found another finance minister. The one they proposed was considered too hostile to eurozone rules.

This actually could be a good outcome. If the Lega and M5s really do contest the next election in an alliance, the voters will have a clear opportunity to support a coalition of “populists”. They did not have such an opportunity in the last election, yet one almost emerged via a post-electoral realignment of the party blocs.

A key question is whether the “establishment” parties can coordinate to give voters an alternative. Another is whether the president just handed the populists a glorious opportunity to say, see, the Italian and European establishment is against us.

15 thoughts on “Italy 2018: Interim government, early elections

  1. Excellent comment. It is unlikely to have early election before September. The problem of the alliance of all “stablishment” parties is, among others, that the Democratic party should run together with its hostorical challenger/ennemy (Berlusconi). I am not sure the M5s will join a pre electoral alliance with the League.

    Best,
    Gianluca

  2. “The breaking of a pre-election alliance–in which the parties presented joint candidacies for the single-seat districts–would always tend to be difficult, and troubling from a representative “mandates” perspective.”

    Troubling is absolutely right: in the apparently soon-to-be-outgoing Parliament, 50 of the League’s 125 Chamber seats and 21 of its 58 Senate mandates came from single-member colleges won by the center-right coalition; moreover, the League won two overseas constituency seats in coalition with two of its three center-right allies.

  3. Is Italy becoming semi presidentialist? This could backfire against the President making the populists more popular.

    • Not really, the great problem with Kerr was not the dismissal itself, but his refusal to warn his prime minister. Byng in Canada, Game in New South Wales and Campbell in Queensland all said that if they were given certain advice they may have to dismiss.

  4. Cottarelli has reportedly resigned his commission to form an interim cabinet, with Conte invited again to form a govt after MS5 and Lega apparently reached a new agreement regarding a coalition cabinet’s composition, with an alternative finance minister being put forward instead of Savona, who will instead be assigned to European affairs. Most of this is from a joint statement by the party leaders.

  5. Conte was officially sworn in. On the same day, Spain also got a new prime minister by passing its first successful constructive vote of no confidence. Exciting times!

  6. Pingback: Italy “coalition of populists” back on | Fruits and Votes

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