Ex-Italian PM Renzi leads efforts to form coalition
Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi (pictured) says he can save Italy from a far-right government led by the Lega’s leader, deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini. Renzi, who left office in 2016, called on all “responsible politicians” to unite against the populist threat.
“For my personal rating and consensus it would be better to stay silent,” the centre-left politician told the Observer. “But Salvini must be stopped, and it’s important to give a strong message – there is an alternative.”
Salvini says he will work with the ailing, anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), which is currently the largest party in parliament but has seen its popularity halve since it went into government with Salvini last year.
Riding high in the polls and after topping May’s European election, Salvini called for an early general election, urging voters to give the Lega “the strength to take this country in hand and save it”.
The anti-migrant populist began his campaign to become prime minister topless on a beach, as he completed a DJ set and posted selfies on Instagram.
But Renzi, now a senator, is leading talks between elements of his left-of-centre Democratic Party (PD) and M5S with the aim of forming a coalition to pass the autumn budget.
The 2020 budget must find an extra €23 billion or Italy’s VAT rate could rise from 22 to 25 per cent in January next year.
But PD leader Nicola Zingaretti called a possible coalition “a gift to the dangerous right” and the M5S boss, Luigi Di Maio, who is also a deputy prime minister, said he would never “sit at the table with Renzi”.
But last week both parties voted against Salvini’s bid to call a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is not aligned to any party.
Salvini said he would try for another no-confidence vote on Tuesday when Conte is due to address the Senate.
Renzi said Salvini’s defeat last Tuesday could herald a momentum shift. “For the first time there was a message against his propaganda,” the former prime minister said.
The Lega is polling at about 38 per cent and could form an electoral pact with the Brothers of Italy, which has neo-fascist roots, to consolidate the far-right vote.
“The idea of making an agreement with a movement [M5S] that has attacked me for five years and used fake news against me and my family is difficult to accept, but for the future of your country, you have to put your emotions aside,” Renzi said. “I ask every responsible politician to please, please block this unbelievable [move] to go to an election. My dream is to help my country avoid the destruction of its economy and institutions, not be the guy who holds the keys to create a government.”
Matteo Renzi with Barack Obama in October 2016. Picture credit: Wikimedia