Commentary. To be frank, not even Lenin would have been able to avoid the turmoil-ridden situation of the Five Stars in which Giuseppe Conte ended up.

The government falls, the Italian right waits to pounce

While the war raged in the heart of Europe, inflation ate up wages and pensions, and the pandemic reached its highest level of contagion in the middle of summer, in Italy, an end-of-term fever provoked the crisis of the government of national unity.

Perhaps this is how the future chronicles of this troubled season will recount the political-institutional downwards spiral that as of Thursday engulfed the political forces that had been called together, 16 months ago, by President Mattarella to unite for the common good: a forced marriage, after sending the yellow-red government packing, while sitting on the mountain of €200 billion from Europe to Italy, granted to a country devastated by tens of thousands of deaths, victims of the virus.

To be frank, not even Lenin would have been able to avoid the turmoil-ridden situation of the Five Stars in which Giuseppe Conte ended up: head of a radical opposition Movement, crippled by a well-orchestrated split and gripped by the specter of an electoral failure, another one of many, at the next general election.

Of course, a hand in the political rupture was also lent by the Prime Minister, the deus ex machina called by the head of state to leave tranquil retirement to commandeer the country. “The majority that supported the government is no longer there. The confidence pact has failed. I will go up to the Quirinal to tender my resignation.”

Draghi conceded nothing to his predecessor’s political machinations, leaving him entangled in the formula coined by the Five Stars, both byzantine and desperate: “We don’t vote in the confidence vote, but we don’t leave the government.” They didn’t take into account the detail that Draghi would exit the government at the same time (as Giannelli’s cartoon in Corriere della Sera depicted on Thursday).

In the end, Conte was left alone, with his ally, Letta’s PD, turning its back on him, understandably so given that with the Five Stars’ different position on the social agenda front, the PD remains the only pro-government party to the bitter end, along with the shapeless centrist faction.

If the center-left’s “broad field” is shrinking, the entire right is celebrating, with the finish line in sight and an election victory within reach as soon as the fall. It is not hard to imagine Salvini, Meloni, and Berlusconi returning to the campaign trail, exploiting the suffering of the weakest, determined to wave the banners of the fight against the citizenship income, minimum wage, ecological reconversion, and rousing up the tax evasion caucus. And, of course, already ready to champion a foreign policy steeped in nationalism and reciprocated love for the Putinist autocracy.

After all, it was quite obvious that the government of national unity, descended from the ivory tower of the economic-financial elite, would particularly hurt the forces of the left. The exacerbation of poverty, of which ISTAT gives such a merciless snapshot, in the absence of structural reforms and in the presence of massive abstentionism at the social peripheries, does not bode well. Those who have to choose between eating or staying warm are not going to listen to reason.

On Thursday, Draghi, greeting his ministers after resigning (before his resignation was rejected in the evening by Mattarella), urged them to be proud of their achievements. We don’t see any achievements that are that notable, on the level of tax or welfare reform, or on employment or schools.

It would have been enough to see even half the measures promoted by Sanchez’s government in Spain (taxes for banks and energy companies, free public transport – just to mention the latest), who was immediately accused of populism by the right-wingers in his country. That’s the kind of “populism” we like.

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