Italian Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede (L) and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a debate in the Senate in Rome. EPA-EFE//ROBERTO MONALDO
Italy’s embattled Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has managed to cling to power, but he faces leading an even more unstable coalition after the exit of ruling partner Matteo Renzi’s party.
New Europe spoke with Nicola Fratoianni, a member of parliament from Sinistra Italiana, about the current political crisis. His party has confirmed their support for Conte after his government lost its absolute majority in the Senate.
New Europe (NE): What do you expect in terms of a positive outcome for this political crisis?
Nicola Fratoianni (NF): It is possible to rule now only with parliamentarians sharing and supporting the program of this government. During this year the government was supported by a majority which underwent some modifications. In this regard, we had in the parliament the birth of the Italia Viva political group, which was created after a split from the Democratic Party. I expect, at this very moment, clarity and wisdom. I think it was right to go into the parliament to present a proposal and see if there was a majority. There was a crystal clear majority in the Chamber, while in the Senate the majority was insufficient. In the next days, I expect that responsibility towards our country could prevail, and in this context, if we want to go on with this government, the program and the objectives must be clear because everyone will have to bear the responsibility.
NE: Is it possible, according to you, that there could again be a political majority with the Italia Viva group? Is the level. of trust with Matteo Renzi gone?
NF: The trust with Renzi is gone, that is a clear fact. I think it is too complicated to understand the nature of this break and any way that we could imagine to rebuild a new alliance. This is the key point, Renzi started a “blind ante“ crisis, first on the supposed unsuitableness of the recovery plan. That text was modified many times with the valuable contribution of the parliament and of the stakeholders. It will further go, in the next days, for additional modifications. Our Prime Minister (Conte) will have a number of meetings with trade unions, entrepreneurs, and civil society in order to improve the text so that, thanks to the majority contribution, it is significantly improved. The second issue Renzi put on the table was the mandate for the secret services. Well, yesterday the Council of Ministers appointed to that role, Undersecretary Ambassador Piero Benassi, who is highly respected by everybody and he will follow our intelligence. Therefore, the problematic issues were solved, but now we still have two points – the possibility to use the European Stability Mechanism to upgrade our health care system, but this issue is non-existent because everybody knows that in this parliament there is no majority opinion on this topic. Lega, the Brothers of Italy and the Five-Star Movement are clearly against it. Like many other MP’s, I also have lots of doubts about the possibility of using this measure as, until now, the Stability Mechanism was not activated by any EU country and this could raise some worries on how it is built. If someone says that the Stability Mechanism is a key point in order to come back to a governmental majority, this means that he doesn’t want to reach an agreement. The last issue left open is that in order to solve this crisis the actual Prime Minister should be substituted, but now this issue is unacceptable. Prime Minister Conte is the key element of the majority. During this difficult period, he did a good job and there are no reasons to remove him.
NE: There are some rumors about the possibility of a new political movement being founded by Conte? Could this be a problem for the government?
NF: This possibility, that Conte could build up a new party, is clearly provoking some concerns at many levels in Italian politics. His popularity is, despite the difficulties, still very high and this could create a different balance in Italian politics. It seems apparent that this issue is not important in the actual ongoing crisis, but someone is strategically putting the light on other issues.
NE: What’s your feeling about the issue of the two senators from Forza Italia who surprisingly voted in favor of the Conte government? Do you think it is good to latch on to majority prime ministers from very different political backgrounds?
NF: It is simple. After the election, there wasn’t a majority coming from an organic political proposal. When Renzi was prime minister, he made some decisions which had nothing to do with the political Left’s traditions. The labor law, the way he wanted to reform the constitution, the electoral and the school laws, all of these were measures that were not part of our Leftist traditions. If there could be the creation of a new political group that could undermine the very advances political plan of the government, everybody will decide accordingly to the interests of the Conte executive coalition. We don’t care about the biography of single MP’s. We care about the decisions taken by the government.
NE: What sort of priority does Italy have to put forward in its relationship with the US after the inauguration of President Joe Biden? It seems that Conte had a good relationship with former President Trump. Is this going to be a problem?
NF: We clearly have to strengthen our cooperation with the US. Then, for sure, Italy has to push Europe to be more of a protagonist at a global level, not only about foreign policy issues. I have to stress that I was against the first Conte Government now we have a new scenario with another majority and I will try to stick to the concrete measures and actions taken by the current administration. We took important decisions, clearly with a “Leftist” accent, like the canceling of the Salvini decrees on immigration.