On Thursday, the Chamber passed the bill to establish the bicameral commission of inquiry into the Covid emergency, with 172 “yes” votes and four abstentions. It will now go to the Senate. The “yes” votes came from the majority coalition and the Third Pole (with a few defections). The center-right ended the proceedings to the chant of “Truth, truth.” The M5S and AVS left the chamber during the vote, while the PD remained, waving their voting cards but boycotting the vote.
The day was full of clashes. The opposition forces submitted amendments to include the response by the regions within the commission’s purview, but the government was against this and the amendments were voted down. Tensions immediately flared up, with accusations that the center-right was trying to target those who were in government during the pandemic while covering up the mistakes of the regional governors (beginning with the one in Lombardy).
Things got particularly heated between FdI’s Giovanni Donzelli and PD deputy group leader Toni Ricciardi, with the former accusing the latter of threatening him: “He made the ‘I’ll wait for you outside’ sign.”
The commission will last for the entire duration of the legislature and will be tasked to investigate (among other items on a long list) the management of the health emergency, the failure to update the pandemic plan, the provision of masks, school closures, the effectiveness of restrictive measures such as lockdowns; to “examine the documents, minutes of collegial bodies, forecast scenarios and any contagion plans prepared by the government”; and to “ascertain the reasons for the failure to activate the pandemic plan then in force following the declaration of emergency by the WHO on January 30, 2020 and the declaration of the state of emergency referred to in the Council of Ministers’ resolution of January 31, 2020.”
It has a very broad scope, which nonetheless excludes the actions of the regions. “If there was really an intention to understand how we got into the pandemic in a condition that was not up to par,” commented Marco Grimaldi, the AVS group leader in the Chamber, “then an inclusive commission should have been put together, not one with the intention of enacting revenge against previous governments while coddling the anti-vaxxers.”
Franco Mirabelli, vice president of the PD group in the Senate, said: “The fact that this commission cannot and must not deal with the regions is enough to show that it’s not serious, but serves to fuel partisan propaganda and protect those in the Lombardy administration, whose performance has been disastrous.”
Giuseppe Conte brought out the rhetorical flair of a prosecutor: “The current majority forces, which were in opposition back then, have engaged in continuous political speculation to the point of cynical exploitation. We remember when Meloni accused us of being criminals. It’s hard for us to see the continuity with her image as the current premier, who, with an underhanded decree, introduced a state of emergency because she couldn’t manage the landing of migrants. And the statements from Minister Santanchè [on Wednesday she had to answer questions before the Senate regarding the investigation concerning her companies] are embarrassing; back then, she was railing about social shock absorbers.”
He continued: “We will face any court with our heads held high, unlike your own politicians. All the judicial authorities have ended their investigations and said that my government made decisions in a responsible manner. This commission is a farce, a political firing squad with two targets: Conte and Speranza.”
Former minister Roberto Speranza watched the proceedings along with PD secretary Elly Schlein: “This commission, the way you’ve set it up, has only one purpose: to create a political tribunal to strike out against members of the governments that came before you. We were not the ones winking at the anti-vaxxers, desperate for a few extra votes. If we have to have a commission, then it should really deal with what happened. But you have chosen to exclude the regions from the scope of its work. So we can investigate what happened in China, but not what happened in Milan, in Palermo, in Rome, in Naples. The judiciary has already investigated our work and fully exonerated us.”
The secretary of +Europa, Riccardo Magi, said: “The Commission on Covid will not base its work on scientific principles, or even intellectual honesty – it will be a witch hunt in which Meloni and company will bring out the anti-vax.”
From Italia Viva, however, Matteo Renzi took the side of the majority (after all, IV would like to head the committee): “Instead of attacking his opponents, Conte should explain why he called Putin and let Russian soldiers into Italy, or if any of his people made a profit on masks and ventilators, or wheeled school desks. Why are the Five Stars afraid of the truth?”
Tommaso Foti, FdI group leader in the Chamber, accused the opposition of “childish theatrics.” FdI deputy Alice Buonguerrieri said: “We will investigate the adverse effects of the vaccine. They’ll have to explain why Italians were forced to vaccinate to go to work.”
The Commission is another point on which there is internal competition among the government coalition: “The Lega very much wanted the commission of inquiry from the beginning. Let’s open a discussion on the government’s responsibility for leaving the regions to fend for themselves.”