Commentary. The most worrying aspect is that all the polls show that the Lega is still gaining ground, in the face of this crisis of credibility and image for the country

Far-right faction tests the unity of Italy’s coalition government

The embarrassing political battle over tax amnesty, and the tragicomic game of one-upmanship between Di Maio and Salvini, each trying to outdo the other at sweeping tax evasion under the rug, were a spectacle that Italy and the Italians truly did not deserve. Salvini and Di Maio, doing a perfect impression of the Fox and the Cat from Pinocchio, offered a cringe-worthy glimpse of their true colors, without even needing a left-wing opposition able to pull off the mask of credibility and the pretense of an electoral mandate that the yellow-green government has been hiding behind.

The sheer political masochism—hard to believe for a coalition that, after all, relies on a solid majority—seems to have ended for now, with the removal of the provision, mysteriously added to the budget law, that would have amnestied financial misdeeds involving foreign capital. Everyone is back to being friends, after a meeting of the Council of Ministers where there was no sign of the mysterious “invisible hand” that had added the scandalous provision.

Right now, the two parties are doing their best to keep the governing agreement from collapsing until the European elections—but this latest scandal reveals just how difficult it is for the M5S to reconcile with their base and also preserve the electoral force that led them to the Palazzo Chigi. The higher-ups of the Lega are treating the M5S as mere cannon fodder, because, while the Lega has tax amnesty in its DNA, a “family tradition” going back to their time in government with Berlusconi, the M5S would face a backlash if it were to suddenly join the side of the corrupt businessmen and tax dodgers that they themselves have been railing against.

In fact, Di Maio and amnesty seem to go hand in hand after all: the grand amnesty for building violations that he promised for Campania, and especially for Ischia (even if it just means a repeat of the similar 1985 amnesty, one of the greatest causes of the devastation we see after natural disasters in these territories) should itself be more than enough to definitively kick the M5S vice-prime minister off his pedestal, who just put on a sorry comedic act on Porta a Porta about the tax amnesty provision supposedly inserted “without his knowledge.”

There are so many things now that are making the Five Star Movement’s base very uncomfortable, not only putting the lie to their slogan “Onestà, onestà!” (“Honesty, honesty!”), but also profoundly belying their environmental background and the notion of the commons, long cultivated by the base, including an aversion to the economic model of grand state-run projects. And it gets worse: the green light given to the disposing of hydrocarbon waste in agricultural areas, included in the Genoa emergency decree designed by the highly imaginative Minister Toninelli, is yet another gift to those who will be able to continue polluting legally. This is a violence done to the territory of our beautiful country, and it must be stopped.

But there is a more profound type of pollution, from which grow the poisonous fruits of those who see immigrants as enemies to be hunted down: the state-orchestrated smear campaign against the mayor of Riace and the Riace migrant experience, the dismantling of migrant reception centers run by municipalities in order to outsource the running of the new mass immigrant jails to private interests, the discrimination against the children of foreigners in Lodi. Against all of this, on Saturday, October 27, an initiative promoted by an extensive list of social organizations is calling for public mobilization in all large cities to stop the black wave. It is also threatening women’s freedom, who will take to the streets in November to protest against violence and racism and in defense of abortion rights.

As if the barbarism taking over our civil society was not enough, our national community is already facing dire consequences from abroad: the European Commission and the rating agencies have delivered their first salvoes, leading to the total isolation of our country, already being punished by a spread that has risen to record levels. And the defense being put up by the yellow-green government, with their inflated estimates of a highly unlikely economic growth, facing a certain worsening in terms of debt, does nothing more than aggravate our very difficult situation.

The most worrying aspect is that all the polls show that the Lega is still gaining ground, in the face of this crisis of credibility and image for the country—while the M5S is in a slump. The latter’s recent festival at the Circo Massimo in Rome looked not so much like a celebration as like a call to arms to regroup. The sharp divisions among their leadership team, and among parliamentarians and local administrators, are beginning to show. It is no coincidence that the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Fico, a veteran from the heyday of the local M5S meet-ups, is trying his best to bridge the fault-lines that are splitting the Movement apart: on immigration, on Europe, now on amnesty—and also on the matter of Salvini’s security decree.

It is possible that the discontent within the Movement, as well as their disagreements with their Lega allies, will be nothing more than a storm in a teacup—after all, if they have to choose between blowing up the government pact and governing the country for five years, they will prefer the latter. But there is no doubt, as the latest skirmishes between the M5S and the Lega have shown, that the trust between the two has frayed. And in the coming months, with the administrative and European elections coming up, the friendship between the Fox and the Cat will be put to the ultimate test.

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