Italian President Sergio Mattarella has refused to confirm the appointment of Euro-critic Paola Savona as Minister of Finance in the new coalition government of the populist Five Star Movement and the Lega Nationale.
With Mattarella’s decision (taken, he said, “to save the constitution”) and the subsequent resignation of the newly-appointed Prime Minister, the obscure Professor Conte, the government has collapsed.
As the markets took fright after the government’s fall, the cost of financing Italy’s two trillion dollar public debt has risen alarmingly, to its highest point since 2014. Mattarella, like many of his predecessors, immediately summoned an ex-IMF financial wizard to serve as a “neutral” Prime Minister, charged with bringing to life a government of similar experts to soothe the markets before the inevitable elections sometime in Autumn.
In 2011 the Berlusconi government was similarly turfed out from office (via the intervention of another “neutral” President, Giorgio Napolitano) amidst a similar financial crisis. But that was then, when the bi-partisan political landscape was occupied by another major mass centre-left party, solid and united, and backed by the country’s leading trade union confederations: the Democratic Party, tried and trusted “responsible” defenders of the capitalist social order in moments like this, as they proved once more over the blitzkrieg of austerity launched by the Mario Monte government “to save the nation”.
Now that landscape has changed utterly, and unlike Berlusconi in 2011, neither the reactionary, xenophobic and racist National League of Matteo Salvini nor Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement have any intention of “responsibly” underwriting the desperate efforts of the individual who kicked them out of office.
Di Maio has called for the President’s impeachment, while Salvini, as befits someone politically and personally on first-name terms with the fascists of Casa Pound and Forza Nuova, has invoked a “march on Rome”, if immediate elections are not held.
In the present atmosphere any election called by Mattarella, even if it might calm the markets and restore some degree of political stability, would inevitably see an even larger majority for the populist duo, this time with a triumph for the Lega and Salvini. Since the election, Salvini has been the dominant and more calculating in terms of pace, direction and dynamic of his tactics. He arrogantly warned Berlusconi that if he voted for the President’s proposed Prime Minister, the alliance of Forza Italia and La Lega would be finished.
Similarly Salvini has promised that if returned to power as Minister of the Interior, he will launch a huge programme of deportations of “illegal” immigrants.
He also promises a massive increase in detention centres (which were set up by the first centre-left Romano Prodi government, then expanded by the first Berlusconi regime, whose repressive regime was “aimed at criminals, mendicants, and skivers young and old”.