The Italian political crisis elevates the right and Putin as great winners against a left in serious trouble | International
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Italy, a nation capable of lighting up —and overthrowing— 67 governments in 76 years, is not a country with time to look back. This Thursday, when the political corpse of the prime minister, Mario Draghi, was still in the body, the parties rushed to open the electoral campaign. The process, which will culminate with the elections on September 25, will be one of the most important in the recent history of the country and will mark with fire the transformation that Italy had embarked on with the former president of the European Central Bank.
Draghi tendered his resignation in the morning. Visibly moved, he bid farewell to Parliament. But the Italian autumn, without a strong Executive, would present itself as a perfect storm. The President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, warned this before dissolving the Chambers: “The situation does not allow pause.” And on that all parties agree. Italy needs a reliable budget law to build a shield against the long winter ahead: inflation, energy restrictions, pending reforms… And for this, it required that the elections be held as soon as possible. The polls today place Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy (partner of Vox in Europe), as the winner. But the campaign, even if there is little time left, can be very long.
Mattarella avoided any delay and dissolved the Chambers early this Thursday afternoon. The last time Italy voted in the fall was in 1919, a moment that ushered in a black period for the country. This time, however, the scenario is very complicated for different reasons. It will be especially hard for the left, which arrives at the electoral race out of place, without the reform of the electoral law that it wanted and distanced from its main partner: the 5 Star Movement. But the threats come from different flanks.
Meloni, the great winner. The right, architect of the fall of Draghi, has significant reasons to celebrate. The main victory must be attributed to Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, the only party that has not participated in any of the three governments of this legislature. Roman politics simply observed, was patient, knew how to mature its moment and waited from the opposition for its coalition partners (La Liga and Forza Italia) to liquidate Draghi’s Unity Executive. The polls prove her right, and right now she is the best placed to win the elections to be held at the end of September.
La Liga and Forza Italia have strengthened ties in recent times and view Meloni with mistrust. One of the options to prevent the Brothers of Italy from leading the next government is to form a single list that tries to obtain more votes to be able to discuss the presidency of the Council of Ministers. But, in reality, neither of the two parties is so concerned about this issue anymore. Both were in a critical situation and the electoral advance will allow them to stop the bleeding before their electorate. Salvini, as he already showed this Thursday by recovering his anti-immigration propaganda on social networks, could settle for recovering his chair in the Ministry of the Interior, which gave him such good returns during the first Government of Giuseppe Conte and for which he still drags processes to close the ports of Italy to immigrants.
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Draghi’s heritage. The only party that wanted any stage before going to vote is the Democratic Party (PD). The Social Democrats had two options to deal with the right-wing coalition. And both are gone. The first was to reform the electoral law to move from a majority system that rewards coalitions to a proportional one. That was the only way to stand up to the artifact that Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia and La Liga will form, which will benefit from the prize that this rule grants to the parties that compete in coalition. The other option was to form a similar group with the 5 Star Movement to compete as equals. It was the only way to take advantage of the benefits of the current electoral law. But the operation to shoot down Draghi carried out by the crickets and its role in sending weapons to Ukraine have almost completely liquidated the alliance.
The lack of narrative pushes the PD and all the parties far from the orbit of the right and the 5 Star Movement to present themselves as Draghi’s heirs. These formations will assume the aura of responsibility and will try to convince that the program of the still prime minister will be the one that they would develop if they were victorious.
The Kremlin uncorks the champagne. The list of problems arising from this crisis, however, is long and deep. In the first place, the electoral scenario and the fall of Draghi call into question the role of the country in the conflict in Ukraine. Italy, the nation with the most influential communist party on the other side of the Iron Curtain for decades, has had a historically promiscuous relationship with Russia that has always placed it in an ambiguous position. Draghi changed that strategy for the first time in years and became a firm ally of Ukraine, as its president, Volodímir Zelenski, recalled on Thursday. The three parties that broke the Executive, however, are the ones that appear the most times in the photo gallery of friends of the Kremlin.
Matteo Salvini, leader of La Liga, has visited Moscow several times and has declared himself a fan of Vladimir Putin (he even wore shirts with his face). The far-right politician was accused of making deals with the Kremlin to finance his party’s debt, a matter that was never clarified and that casts a shadow over the independence of his party from Russia. Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia, is a personal friend of the Russian president. And the 5 Star Movement, third leg of the assassination Wednesday’s Italian, has been the party that has been most opposed in recent times to sending weapons to Ukraine. Former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s relationship with Moscow was always fluid and his party questioned the sanctions imposed by the European Union. There is no doubt that the champagne was opened in the Kremlin on Thursday.
Recovery plan and budget law. Italy is the largest recipient of funds from the European Union’s recovery plan. But the around 230,000 million euros (between loans and non-refundable money) that he will have to receive in the coming years are conditional on four major reforms: of justice, the Administration, the treasury and competition. The first two are complete. The third was left halfway and the last one is up in the air. Europe will tighten the screws on Rome soon and will carefully watch progress. The delay in meeting the objectives could mean that Italy loses the second payment of the plan, 21,000 million, between subsidies and loans.
The budget law is the other concern right now in the Quirinal Palace, seat of the presidency. Draghi, one of the most brilliant economists of recent decades, was expected to be in charge of designing a rule that would shield the country from the looming crisis and from the effects of runaway inflation. Italy, however, will no longer be able to count on the magic wand of the former ECB president.
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