On Saturday, for the first time since her victory at the polls, Giorgia Meloni held a public speech at the meeting of the National Confederation of Growers (Coldiretti) in Milan. Also on Saturday, for the first time since the beginning of the war, no Russian gas arrived in Italy.
The juxtaposition is enough to clarify what the top issues are in the meetings between the leaders, and also in the efforts to form the next government: it’s not as much the puzzle of filling the ministry roles, but the high utility bills, which are a bigger problem and almost as urgent.
The roadmap of the incoming prime minister sets out an inauguration date for the new government of October 25: this would be extraordinary speed, with the intention of breaking every record, but also something forced on her by the dangers of the crisis.
Before addressing the crowd, the FdI leader paid a “courtesy visit” to Arcore the night before. Her face-to-face meeting with Berlusconi lasted half an hour. According to the official version, no names and ministries were discussed. That’s hard to believe, but it’s probably true that the bulk of the talk was about bills and energy; in particular, about the question that for now remains unanswered: “What will we do?”
A few ideas have come up: limiting the RDC by restricting the right of refusal to a single offer, or cutting the home renovation Superbonus, although it is still unclear whether this would distinguish between first and second homes or would involve a cut from 110% to 70-80%. But it’s far from enough. The path Meloni would like to take is to centralize all aspects of the energy crisis, entrusting them to a “supercommissioner,” modeled after the COVID crisis.
The speech of the winner of the recent elections before the farmers’ association reflected the urgency of the problem and hinted at the changes in her approach dictated by the situation. Meloni recalled for the first time that she was, after all, a sovereignist: she spoke about “food sovereignty,” while assuring that her government will start from the “national interest” but arrive at “shared solutions.”
The focus, however, was on the crisis. The FdI leader stressed that she was “in constant contact with the outgoing government, engaged in a very complex negotiation.” They shared the same goals: “The problem is not how to compensate for speculation, but how to stop it. The work that needs to be done is to figure out how to intervene on the energy costs in the fall: we cannot go on as we have in recent months.”
Taking the mantle of peacemaker, she gave assurances that “we will not go it alone: we will involve the intermediate bodies.” She was addressing an intermediate body such as Coldiretti, but in the background we can glimpse a wider approach. In her first and only public statement after the elections, she had called on all political forces to make a common front against the crisis. Berlusconi went even further: “In the new government, the efforts of many will be needed, in an effort of true national unity as the state of mind of the public of the country.” So, the crisis does not allow, or at least advises against, taking a hard line in the vein of “woe to the defeated.”
The bills are weighing the most heavily, but the dilemmas about the government seats remain. The difficult part is dealing with the Lega, even after Salvini dropped his insistence that he should be Interior Minister. The defeated leader wants four ministries: Interior, Infrastructure, Regional Affairs and Agriculture, and he wants the latter for himself. It was no accident that on Saturday he tweeted out that “the defense of Italian farmers, ranchers and fishermen will be a priority of the government. Long live Italy, including at the dinner table” – and it was more than just marking the occasion of the Milan meeting. Together with the ministry, he still wants the role of vice-premier, in tandem with Tajani, to ensure he has a distinguished enough title.
Before the government can be put together, it will be necessary to deal with the election of the presidents of the Chambers, which will have an impact on the final arrangement: as one FdI leader put it, “one presidency is worth two ministries.”
Salvini would like the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, to block his Lega colleague Calderoli from having the presidency of the Senate, whom he trusts little. In that case, the Senate should go to FI, but FdI is not yet decided to leave this critical post to others. In case FdI decides to keep it for themselves, the leading candidate would be Ignazio La Russa.
The most urgent choice, of course, is that of the economy minister, because how do you set up a response to the crisis without knowing who will be most directly involved? On that issue, however, we are still in the dark.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.