On paper, the crisis should end on Tuesday in the Senate. But in fact, it could simply enter a new phase.
The problem is simple: the “constructive votes” are not there, and if they do not materialize in the next hours, the government coalition will have to deal with a numerical and political framework that will be very different from what was expected. In this situation, according to some rumors, it is not beyond possibility that Conte will decide to avoid going to the Senate and resign immediately after having received the vote of confidence in the Chamber. This is denied, however, by the Palazzo Chigi.
From the latter come reassurances that Conte is determined to move forward anyway, even with a government that is not only backed by a minority but a small minority, limited to 151-53 senators. As of Saturday night, those were the only certain votes.
In any case, the staff of the premier argue, the vote of confidence will pass thanks to the abstention of Renzi’s people, not yet official but already certain. The government could go ahead anyway, as in this emergency phase, the Parliament counts for very little, even if with such small numbers the certainty of the PD, and perhaps that of the President, might waver.
On Saturday morning, there was still a certain optimism. It seemed that the UDC caucus was one step away from jumping over the fence, and it would have been a major result, not only from a numerical point of view but also from a political one. The whole operation would have been configured as a political project, an enlargement of the majority to include different but homogeneous forces instead of the support of a wild and uncontrollable mass. It didn’t happen. At lunchtime, the UDC leader Cesa announced the opposite choice. It is uncertain whether there will be defections from the blues. Nencini, in the end, decided to stay with Renzi.
If it barely passes, Conte would have a few weeks to try to build a “constructive” coalition, after which the PD believes that it would not make sense to try to move forward. But with too little grassroots parliamentary support, the appeal would be weak and the game compromised from the start. It may seem absurd that in such a dramatic situation, single votes would become crucially important, and yet this is exactly how it is: the picture with 157-158 senators in favor would be radically opposite to that with only 152-153 votes.
But there is a risk of ending up just like that, and that is why the majority summit on Sunday could discuss a Conte 3 government. At that point, the game would become much more attractive for potential “constructive votes”: a new government also means new posts. What seems destined to fail today could prove possible tomorrow.
The M5S, who convened their summit on Saturday, keeping in close contact with the premier, are ready. They realize that without the “constructive votes,” the government would not sink but would probably be short-lived. They know that for their ranks the absolute priority is to avoid early elections, and that such demands have come from the ranks of the likely “constructive votes.” The thorn in their side is Renzi, who was unsurprisingly jubilant on Saturday and, after having avoided the risk of splitting his group, warned: “Without us, there are between 150 and 152 votes. Let’s remain united.” His intention to re-enter the game by negotiating the return to the majority is obvious.
In theory, this is a possibility that everyone denies. LeU is against it. “Dialogue is impossible,” says their group leader, De Petris. For the M5S, preventing the return of Renzi is essential. Peace within the Movement depends on that uncompromising choice. Di Maio is even supposed to have made a formal commitment to Di Battista, who at this point is even thinking of entering the government. If the decision were to be reversed, the civil war in the Movement would break out again on the spot.
But the interests of the leaders and those of the much less secure parliamentary base are divergent, and Saturday some cracks began to appear. Someone from the party, protected by anonymity, said: “The ‘responsible votes’ do not exist. We must find a way to mend the rift with IV.“
The real weak link, however, is the PD. Officially, there are no doubts: the Renzi chapter is closed. But the idea of a Conte III government does not displease the PD at all. It would be the only way to guarantee that “new legislative pact” that Zingaretti and Orlando like to mention two or three times a day. But opening that door inevitably means putting Renzi back in the game. Because the “responsible votes” for a third Conte government might be there or might not be. Italia Viva’s 18 senators are certainly there.