Can Salvini still become prime minister?

In a bid to prevent the formation of a coalition between the Cinque Stelle and the Democratic party (PD) in Italy Lega leader Matteo Salvini is trying to gain the support of those within Five Star who are willing to continue cooperating with his party. But time is running out for him because President Giuseppe Mattarella expects a decision on who will govern the country by Wednesday. Commentators are appalled by the situation in Italy.

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Contributors (RO) /

Italians looking for a godfather figure

Lega leader Salvini could emerge from the conflict stronger than ever, Romanian author Adrian Stephan writes in Contributors:

“Many people have long seen in Salvini the new Mussolini, or even - why not - a small Italian Putin: a leader for whom Salvini has repeatedly shown admiration. ... In the coming days or weeks we will see if Italian populism disappears or if it re-emerges stronger than ever before. ... Unfortunately, in the eyes of the Italians Salvini seems to embody the godfather figure that - after generations of politicians embroiled in corruption scandals - they believe they so urgently need.”

Politiken (DK) /

Political, economic and cultural decline

The crisis in Italy reflects the country's decline, Politiken comments:

“Since the days when media mogul Berlusconi was prime minister Italian politics has been reduced to a reality show in which leading politicians can survive anything - from bunga bunga parties with under-aged girls to tax fraud. The country is up to its neck in debt and according to the World Economic Forum it ranks only 31st worldwide in terms of competitiveness. ... Nor does Italy occupy a leading position when it comes to culture anymore, as it did when filmmakers like Federico Fellini or authors like Umberto Eco used to set the tone in Europe. Together with Britain Italy embodies the story about how low a state can go when voters get used to political populism.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Not just a domestic matter

Italy isn't the only country where the EU should seek to restore order, Helsingin Sanomat believes:

“If we look at Salvini's views on the EU it seems clear that Italy will break the common rules along with Hungary and Poland. Thanks to its Eurozone membership Italy enjoys confidence and low interest rates on the financial markets. The ECB's lax monetary policy has revived Italy's economy and the banking union is propping up its wobbly bank system. Now Italy is exploiting this support provided by the Union and flouting the rules of good budget management. If a populist economic policy lands the Eurozone's third-largest economy in trouble this will be a problem for the entire Eurozone. So the legal and economic stance of Hungary, Poland and Italy are not just the domestic matters for these countries.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Not a well thought out move

The chances of Salvini becoming Italian prime minister have decreased in the last few days, De Volkskrant points out:

“The rapprochement between the PD and Five Star provides a new option [in addition to new elections]. If the government collapses there would be an alternative majority. ... The third option is that Prime Minister Conte announces that the dispute in his cabinet has been resolved and Lega and Cinque Stelle simply continue to govern together. ... This would mean an incredible, unprecedented loss of face for Salvini, but the alternative of a coalition between Cinque Stelle and PD would be even more catastrophic for him. Then the man who until recently was Western Europe's most successful populist would be left sitting on the opposition benches, and it would be another four years before he gets the chance to leave them. Who knows what would remain of his popularity then?”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Far-right government almost inevitable

Salvini's big opportunity rests on the other parties' inability to join forces against him, The Irish Times puts in:

“Arithmetically, there is another possible majority in parliament of M5S and the centre-left Democratic Party. But such an arrangement was rejected last year and now might be just a time-delayed gift to Salvini, the rising man. Given the current level of support for the Lega, and for other right-wing and 'post-fascist' parties likely to back it, it may be that a Lega government cannot be blocked for very long. The day that it assumes power will be another challenging one for Europe, and perhaps a dangerous one for Italy too.”

Kommersant (RU) /

European cohesion soon a thing of the past

Europe's ability to act as one is under threat, political scientist Sergei Utkin writes in Kommersant:

“Salvini is the shrillest opponent of the EU foreign-policy mainstream. He is outspoken - albeit without any result so far - about the need to phase out the sanctions on Russia, he bickers with French President Macron and compliments US President Trump - who is for the most part unpopular in the EU - and British Prime Minister Johnson. ... Nevertheless key foreign policy decisions continue to be reached unanimously in the EU. ... Until now the potential troublemakers have preferred not to brek with the consensus on many issues. However, if the rifts between the EU Commission and the governments of certain refractory countries prove unbridgeable this will have a negative impact on EU cohesion in foreign policy.”

Kurier (AT) /

Italy on the edge of the abyss

The government crisis in Italy could have far-reaching consequences, warns Kurier - and holds the EU responsible:

“It's like déjà-vu. First it was Greece and now another southern European Eurozone country is on the edge of the fiscal abyss. And yet again we see how the political elites of a country have caused a crisis situation out of stupidity or cowardliness. Brussels and the EU leaders can't be left out here. From a purely economic perspective Italy (like Greece) should never have been allowed to join the Eurozone. ... The truth is: it's either muddle through with the ECB's zero-percent-interest policy, which keeps the country from exploding but has a crippling effect on all Europe. Or introduce the most radical reforms of the century without any idea about the outcome.” (ES) /

EU needs to put Salvini in his place

The EU has done nothing to prevent Salvini's ascent so far, complains:

“This boorish pachyderm now has good chances of becoming the head of government of one of the four key EU member states. But despite the looming danger no one seems to want to talk about him. People prefer to ignore him, pretending he doesn't exist and that Italy continues to be a reliable partner with functioning institutions. ... The other popular strategy is to assuage him by telling him he's right but using the wrong approach. ... The result of these two disastrous strategies is obvious: the elephant is getting fatter with each day that passes because no one is stopping him. On the contrary, they're feeding him by telling him he is right.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Incompetent Lega opponents

Lega's opponents are oversimplifying when they describe the party as barbaric, writes historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia in Corriere della Sera:

“When the 'barbarians' grew more numerous what were the Optimates [the aristocratic defenders of the Republic in Ancient Rome] doing? What campaigns did they launch to protect the democratic citadel? What defence measures did they take? ... One might get the impression that the talk about 'barbarians', which evokes the idea of a wild and overpowering force, an uncontrollable wave, mainly serves the Optimates' objective of concealing their desertion, their own incompetence, which turned into objective complicity with the enemy.”

Journal 21 (CH) /

Anti-Salvini alliance would lack stability

The former EU Commission president Romano Prodi has proposed an "Ursula Coalition" for Italy: an alliance of parties which voted for Ursula von der Leyen as EU Commission President. However such an anti-Salvini alliance would lack stamina, Journal 21 believes:

“The left is once again at loggerheads: some want a pact with Cinque Stelle, others don't. And Cinque Stelle itself is divided. Its guru Beppe Grillo convened his party leaders to a summit to discuss the possibility of joining forces with the left. Then at the last moment the two blocs became so hostile and aggressive with each other that a sudden honeymoon would seem bizarre. Such an alliance would be anything but a stable coalition.”