Commentary. Practically half the government is in quarantine, but there is a risk that the viral contagion is being mirrored by the metaphorical one that is affecting his governance.

The own goal of a government crisis

We are facing a terrible pandemic, every day we count hundreds of deaths, millions of people are in serious economic difficulties, the billions of euros of the European plan are coming, and, in this situation, we’re talking about a government crisis. If we put ourselves in the shoes of an ordinary citizen, the madness of the political carousel borders on insanity.

But common sense—as the experience and history of our country are telling us—doesn’t always go hand in hand with politics. Especially with that which has the fate of the nation in its hands, and therefore greater responsibility for what might happen. Because the paradox is that the strongest anti-government drives don’t come from the opposition—which, as is its right, but also wearily, is constantly asking Conte to resign.

The attack comes from the forces within the majority. First of all because of the very strong turmoil among the M5S, and then because of the craving for center stage of the Renzian squad. With the PD unable to be a truly propulsive and balanced element, with elected leaders who (starting with the group leaders of its deputies and senators), instead of calming the waters, are pushing towards a final showdown. Meanwhile, Liberi e Uguali can’t play the role of offering balance, as it doesn’t have the strength of numbers on its side.

Words such as ‘balance’ and ‘wisdom’ can hardly apply to the Palazzo Chigi and its surroundings nowadays, where, instead of working and committing to the common good—given that Italy is in danger of sinking into the depths, and not only because of the pandemic—personal egos, prejudices and ideology seem to prevail.

However, in this mad merry-go-round, there is a political force that is more out of control and worrying than the others, and that is the Five Star Movement, riven by an implacable internal conflict. Those who are saying it are none other than the M5S ministers, who during these hours are trying to get the dissidents back among their ranks, insisting that there will be a “vote of confidence” for Conte’s government on Wednesday. It will be a vote on Conte himself, since it won’t be on giving the green light to the ESM but on the role of Italy in Europe.

The fact that the party is on the threshold of fracture, which might go all the way to a split, makes it a loose cannon that is difficult to handle. Because among the dissidents, there are parliamentarians who don’t even remotely feel like they belong to the democratic front. They are close to the Lega, they have only bitterly accepted the agreement with the Democratic Party, they are cheering for Trump who is yelling against alleged election fraud denied even by his Republican friends, they think that Italy is at risk of invasion from immigrants. How can you bring these elements back into a space of international solidarity, of pro-European sharing, of the fight against social injustice? They are a loose cannon on deck.

On the other hand, Renzi is restless. He feels imprisoned in an alliance that offers him little space, and he thinks that his little party has no future inside of this political “fence.” And thus, he is aiming at the weak spot, knowing that he has many of his former partners ready to shore him up within the PD. Zingaretti is incapable, or not strong enough, to act decisively against the agitprop of his party. More likely than the reconstruction of a left-wing party via Zoom, or than a progressive wide field, a nice scenario of another Renzi-Berlusconi alliance might be around the corner.

In this situation, Conte is risking a lot. And his greatest share of responsibility concerns precisely what Landini has reproached him for: that is to say, the lack of sharing of information with the social partners (as Landini points out) and—we wish to add—with parliamentarians and his own ministers on the reconstruction plan and on the ordered structure for the development of the Recovery Fund.

Practically half the government is in quarantine, but there is a risk that the viral contagion is being mirrored by the metaphorical one that is affecting his governance. Even as he tries to dampen tensions, to calm the climate, he knows he has a rough and narrow path ahead and that a misstep could be fatal. His only strength, paradoxically, is the fear of the crisis itself—which would have disastrous consequences at this moment. Italy’s credibility would vanish at a glance, making it very difficult to shorten the timescale for the allocation of European funds.

Not to mention the political consequences of an early vote: the opposition would win hands down, and Italy would be handed over to Salvini, Meloni and Berlusconi, the worst right wing in the history of the Republic. In the end, the question must be asked: do the M5S, Italia Viva and the PD want to deliver the country into their hands?

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