“We are in contact with the outgoing government to facilitate an orderly transition. We have tight deadlines, but we are ready. And we have the qualifications and abilities,” boasted Giorgia Meloni while addressing the national leadership of Fratelli d’Italia gathered in Rome at the party’s Via della Scrofa headquarters.
It was a declaration of intent. But after Wednesday, there was little doubt that the debate over the proportion of technocrats in the incoming center-right government is really about the need of the future Prime Minister to free herself from the grip of her allies, who at this point might become little more than junior partners, minority partners in the coalition and the team of ministers that will arise out of it.
“I’ll be the one who puts my face to this government,” Meloni said in no uncertain terms before her people. And she seemed to be responding directly to the recent demands from both Berlusconians and the Lega when she said bluntly: “I will not have names dictated to me that don’t rise up to the level of the situation. The government will not be composed to resolve internal party quarrels, or by proposing any figure whatever, or for the salary that comes with the position.”
These are chilling words directed at Forza Italia, which, through national coordinator Antonio Tajani, had called for a political government and not a technocratic one, and the Lega, which is circulating notes and lists of names that among the ranks of the FdI are referred to condescendingly as “shopping lists.”
“If the President of the Republic gives us the mandate, ours will be a political government,” Meloni is reported to have clarified to the FdI leadership, “with a clear program, a popular mandate and a political prime minister. As the citizens have wanted, we will carry out policies in discontinuity with those put in place in recent years by the PD-driven executives.” The idea is clear: the right is coming to the Palazzo Chigi during what the FdI leader bluntly called “perhaps the most difficult phase in Republican history.” So, although each of the allies can legitimately claim some seats and put forward candidates, what is needed is “high-profile personalities who have high-level skills.”
Francesco Lollobrigida and Fabio Rampelli said that she didn’t mention any names in particular. They even said that at the moment there was no “veto on Salvini for the Interior Ministry.”
However, Rampelli did hint at a general criterion that is arousing a lot of discontent among allies: “One can suppose that some government posts may be entrusted to technocrats, as it’s understood that since the leader of the government is political, the government is political.”
More explicitly, as outgoing FdI Senate group leader Luca Ciriani says, “there could be an issue of how opportune it is” for Salvini to be Interior Minister.
As for what is now being called the “Meloni rule,” i.e. that no one can occupy a government post they have already occupied in the past, voices from FdI are non-commital: “We’ll wait for Mattarella’s decisions.”
But Lollobrigida himself, one of the few to have a direct line to Meloni, was keen to clarify the working method once again: “Starting the discussion with vetoes is wrong. We must start from qualifications.” Which sounds like yet another way of saying: fewer political appointees, more people with expertise.
The Lega leader seems to be aware that his ambitions for the Interior Ministry are not being well received: at the end of Tuesday’s federal council meeting, while he claimed he was the front-runner for what Giancarlo Giorgetti called his “natural post,” he admitted for the first time that he was, after all, available to “do whatever is needed.”
The alternative portfolios for him would be labor, economic development or infrastructure. But at this point, voices from the Lega are making it clear that they consider it essential that Salvini be given the title of vice-premier at the very least. Those from the FdI are saying they are certain that a solution will be found. But these reassurances are being given with the tone of those who intend to sit at the coalition table to deal the cards rather than look for a mediated solution.