Currently the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resign Tuesday – plunging the country into chaos as it faces public health once in a generation and economical crisis – he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the post of prime minister in three decades. (To contrast, Germany has only three chancellors since 1982, and France has five presidents.)
But Conte, who had no prior political experience until he was sworn in to the top job in 2018, did not give up too much as he took the big bet that President Sergio Mattarella would again appoint him to lead Conte’s third coalition government in less than three years.
Recent dysfunction is unique even in the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might happen next?
Giuseppe Conte – political chameleon. A law professor with no political expertise, Conte came to lead the populists coalition from the anti-establishment Five Star party and the far-right League party in 2018.But when the comfort coalition collapsed after just 14 months, Conte quickly learned to navigate Italy’s choppy politics and hold on, taking the lead. center-left populist government until its recent collapse.
Risk vs gain. Conte decided to resign after a small left-wing party led by former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi withdraw his support for the government last week, claiming that the prime minister has let technocrats – rather than elected officials – oversee the spending of $ 200 billion in EU aid funds. But in doing so, Conte is now taking a big risk.
Politically reduced after losing the majority in Senate – which would cripple his ability to pass laws during the ongoing national emergency – Conte is betting he could lie before being reappointed to head Italy’s next government.
But the political risks loom large. If a new government isn’t formed any time soon, Italy could go to new elections, which will be a boon for the right. League party currently leading the poll. (Although there is no guarantee that a League party, led by right-wing firebrand Matteo Salvini, can form a stable coalition.)
Or, the Italian president could decide that a third Conte-led government is untenable, and use other technocrats to lead a mix of ideologically opposed parties that are unlikely to last for the long term. This will only exacerbate instability as the government is already struggling to roll out a vaccine for COVID (Rome has threatened to sue Pfizer for a drug shortage), as well as managing the delivery of billions of dollars in pandemic aid from Brussels.
Indeed, the stakes could not be higher for pandemic-stricken Italy, which has recorded more than 85,000 death from COVID-19, one of the highest per capita death rates in the world. After a series of lockdowns, the tourism-dependent economy has taken a hit, with GDP shrinking by around 10 percent in 2020.
When Italy emerged as COVID epicenter Last spring, Prime Minister Conte was a steady presence, frequently speaking to the nation, and leading the country’s top-down pandemic response. Conte is now betting on the trust he has built with the Italians (he currently has a strong approval rating 56 percent) would compensate for any perception of its role in sparking a new chapter of political turmoil amid a national emergency.
In Italy it is famous complicated political system, this kind of upheaval is equivalent to a course. But pandemic politics does not reflect business as usual – and if Conte’s stakes backfire it could crush his hopes of making politics a full-time show.
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