Italian coalition under pressure amid graft claims

Italian coalition under pressure amid graft claims

Italy’s coalition government appears to be in jeopardy after the two populist “allies” accused each other of corruption, fuelling speculation about an early election in June. 

The complex relationship between the anti-migrant Lega and anti-establishment Five Star Movement appears to be nearing crisis point amid allegations against one of the far-right party’s ministers, Armando Siri. 

Siri, 47, is a close ally of the Lega leader, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. As undersecretary at the Transport Ministry, he is accused by prosecutors of accepting a €30,000 payout for allegedly seeking to favour renewable energy firms. 

Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, also a deputy prime minister, has demanded Siri’s resignation.

The Lega has been enraged by the Five Star’s transport minister, Danilo Toninelli’s decision to remove Siri’s responsibilities amid the ongoing allegations.

But then Italian magazine L’Espresso unveiled a recording of Five Stars’ high-profile mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi (pictured), urging the garbage-collection boss to modify the company’s budget in an apparent abuse of her position.

She denied exerting pressure on the rubbish-services manager, saying she wanted to avoid an excessive budget which would have boosted the managers’ bonuses despite their poor performance.

Raggi said on Facebook that she spoke “harshly” to him “because there is garbage in the streets and I can’t accept it”. 

But the populist Salvini, who is riding high in the polls as Five Star has slumped, called on the 40-year-old Raggi to resign.

Salvini might be keen to rerun Rome’s mayoral race.

Polling suggests that since the two rivals formed their unlikely coalition last year, Lega support has shot up to around 33 per cent, while Five Star’s backing has slumped to about 22 per cent.

“Salvini isn’t the only one who’s sick and tired of Five Star,” the Lega’s Edoardo Rixi, deputy minister in the Infrastructure Ministry, told La Repubblica. “We’re all sick and tired.” 

He said Five Star was doing “all it can to make us vote in June” after late May’s European parliamentary elections, which the Lega is well-placed to dominate.

But Salvini has resisted pressure to bring about an early election, saying the northern-based party needs more time to build southern support. 

“What government crisis are you talking about? The League wants to govern well and for a long time in the interests of Italians,” said Salvini. 

The firebrand interior minister is also wary of having to rely on his former ally, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, to form a government.



Five Stars’ high-profile mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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