Italy’s ‘zombie’ government focused on European election
Italy’s populist coalition government appears to be limping towards the May 26 European election, unwilling for the government to fall before the vote that could shift the balance of power in Brussels.
The anti-migrant Lega and anti-establishment Five Star Movement administration “is already dead, but remains on its feet, a bit like a zombie, waiting for the European elections [stuck] between farce and drama”, political scientist Stefano Folli said.
A transport undersecretary, Armando Siri, close to Lega leader Matteo Salvini was accused of corruption.
Siri was alleged to have accepted a €30,000 bribe, or the promise of a payment, from a tycoon for promoting renewable energy firms.
Prosecutors claim the businessman has Sicilian mafia links.
Five Star demanded Siri’s resignation.
Salvini angered many in Italy on Thursday by skipping Italy’s Liberation Day events to mark the end of the Nazi occupation in 1945.
A former MEP, Salvini has emerged as the dominant figure trying to unify populist parties across Europe.
He has found common cause with other populist movements, like Germany’s main opposition party, AfD, and the Finns Party, the Danish People’s Party, the Austrian Freedom Party and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France.
Rising hate crimes in Italy, most prominently in football grounds, is increasing pressure on the Five Star leadership to take on the extremist coalition partners.
Both parties are reportedly considering pulling out of the government after the May 26 election.
The opposition Democratic Party has presented its candidates for the election, including a doctor, Pietro Bartolo, from the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, who treats migrants saved on the journey from nearby Libya, and well-known anti-mafia prosecutor Franco Roberti.
Party leader Nicola Zingaretti said the election “will be a difficult battle” but that the Democrats would content it with “great conviction.”
The centre-left party won the 2013 general election but suffered a heavy defeat last year.
The Lega, which received a feeble 17-per-cent support at the general election in March 2018, is now polling at around 32 per cent. The party is bolstered by Salvini’s tough line on migrants since becoming interior minister last June, turning away humanitarian rescue ships from Italian ports.
He is purportedly hoping a strong showing in the European election will allow the Lega to ditch its Five Star partners.
The Lega has long had a Eurosceptic reputation and a number of its European candidates want Italy to ditch the euro.
Five Star won 32 per cent of the vote at the general election but has since seen its popularity almost half and it recently suffered bruising defeats in provincial elections.
Italy used to expect tolerance for migrants. Italians arrive in Ellis Island in 1904. Picture credit: Wikimedia