What to expect from Italy's new government?

Italy's new government made up of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party was sworn in on Thursday. The independent lawyer Luciana Lamorgese will take over from Lega leader Salvini as minister of the interior. Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Movimento Cinque Stelle, will become foreign minister. The new government is good news for Europe but a shaky construction, commentators observe.

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La Vanguardia (ES) /

Return of the prodigal son

La Vanguardia is delighted with the new government in Rome:

“The EU can dispense with the UK without betraying its ideals or losing its personality. But the same doesn't apply for Italy, which was one of the six signatories to the Treaty of Rome in 1957. ... The good news is that Italy has expressed its clear desire to continue contributing to the development of Europe. We must bear in mind that both Movimento Cinque Stelle and the PD backed Ursula van der Leyen, and it is significant that they have appointed two politicians of the markedly pro-European PD to ministerial posts that are key to relations with Brussels (the Minister for European Affairs and the Economy Minister), and have proposed the experienced Paolo Gentilone as EU commissioner. ... The return of the prodigal son is an opportune piece of good news. ... The revival of the EU requires an Italy that is true to its pro-European character.”

Népszava (HU) /

A strong coalition weakens right-wing populists

A strong performance from the new Italian government could help to diminish the popularity of right-wing populist governments across Europe, Népszava explains:

“If the government completes its tasks successfully without loud debates and can produce good economic results, Lega's popularity may wane - despite the fact that Salvini will no doubt continue to fuel anti-government sentiment. Lega is a driving force behind European populism, and in the European elections the party received more mandates than any other with a similar ideology. It's clear that a decline in its popularity would also have an impact outside Italy.”

Les Echos (FR) /

No common basis

The new government in Italy brings together two unequal parties, business paper Les Echos comments:

“For the time being the new coalition partners seem to be getting along better than Lega and M5S did. But Beppe Grillo's party embodies a form of left-wing populism and exerts mass appeal by making its opposition to elites and traditional politics - the very things the Partito Democratico stands for - its bread and butter. That shows just how unstable the coalition is. And we mustn't forget that Salvini still hasn't said his last word. In the meantime, however, Europe can heave a sigh of relief.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The country is still not doing well

Italy's new government is grappling with the same old problems, writes columnist Aldo Cazzullo in Corriere della Sera:

“The Italian economy is still in a poor state. The country is hardly growing - despite the efforts of its companies and workers. The uncertainty associated with globalisation, the bitterness over the loss of sovereignty and the intolerance of uncontrolled immigration have not simply disappeared. Salvini's own goal, the laborious negotiations between the PD and the Five Star Movement, the latter's referendum on its Rousseau voting platform and the confidence in the new government haven't altered these facts in the slightest.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Two weak parties add up to one strong one

La Repubblica explains why PD and Five Star were able to form a coalition on their third attempt:

“The first two attempts failed also because of the imbalances of power and the expectations of the parties: in 2013 the PD had the majority and the Movimento Cinque Stelle didn't want to serve as a crutch. ... Conversely, in 2018, at the behest of the defeated Matteo Renzi, the Democratic party, which had been humiliated at the polls, rejected an alliance with Five Star. This time it worked out because the balance is right. The Movimento Cinque Stelle is weakened after a year and a half of submission to Matteo Salvini's agenda, while the PD has recovered but is not yet ready for a campaign.”

Die Presse (AT) /

The main thing is to survive

The new government is already displaying a lack of cohesion, Die Presse observes:

“The danger of unpredictable new elections with Lega making big gains has been banished for the time being, and this is probably what is holding this marriage of convenience together. The tone vis-à-vis the EU is now likely to be more conciliatory - and Brussels will probably be more merciful in negotiations. Otherwise, this bizarre coalition will be preoccupied simply with surviving from one day to the next. Not only the vague provisional government programme points to this. The coalition talks with haggling over posts, unresolved differences on key issues and open distrust also gave a foretaste of things to come. ... Conte and his new team are unlikely to be able to prescribe the treatment the country so urgently needs.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Vote was dubious, result is fitting

Italian politics is now in the hands of the Five Star Movement and its dubious "Rousseau" voting platform, Tages-Anzeiger explains:

“115,000 users are registered on the Rousseau server. Who they are no one knows, apart from the party and the company. But the whole country held its breath for a day while they made their decision - and finally said Yes to a Five Star-PD coalition. 79 percent of them, no less. Thus, this dubious procedure fits in neatly with the developments of recent weeks, the constitutional formation of a government in a parliamentary democracy. Giuseppe Conte should now be able to put together his cabinet. If the error-prone, intransparent, frequently hacked Rousseau system had stopped him it would have been a disaster - a mockery of the parliament, the republic and democracy.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Not built to last

Many of the new coalition's plans could fall by the wayside, De Volkskrant fears:

“Most of the plans of the Conte-1 government weren't implemented because the coalition collapsed after 14 months. And doubts have existed about the stability of Conte-II from the start. Not only were the members of the Movimento Cinque Stelle and the PD arch-enemies not so long ago, sparks also flew during the coalition talks. Just last week Di Maio threatened to nip the coalition in the bud if he wasn't reinstated as deputy prime minister. Only when he was publicly chastised by party founder Beppe Grillo did he withdraw the threat.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Government will fail without EU concessions

If Brussels doesn't meet Italy halfway on the budget deficit and asylum Lega will soon be in power again, warns the Financial Times:

“Mr Salvini remains a potent force in opposition. The EU has an opportunity to address those deep concerns that have converted so many Italians to his cause. It should provide leeway over the deficit and later on an overhaul of its fiscal rules to allow for more public investment and less tightening in downturns. It also needs an asylum system that eases the burden on southern states and supervises migrant rescues at sea. Otherwise Mr Salvini’s return to power is only a matter of time.”

La Stampa (IT) /

New humanism not very credible

Prime minister designate Giuseppe Conte has promised a government that will bring a new humanism to Italy. Vladimir Zagrebelsky, a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, is sceptical about this in La Stampa:

“Migration policy is the area in which this new humanism can be realized or refuted. The cruelty of the actions of the previous Conte government is obvious to all. ... But Cinque Stelle has not shown the slightest regret over its support for the course taken by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. On the contrary, Di Maio has tried to depict all that the previous government did as his own achievement.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Conte's revealing silence

Conte promised that a 'new chapter' would begin for Italy in his speech on Thursday, but he was very sketchy on the details of his programme, comments political scientist Sofia Ventura in La Stampa:

“Conte didn't mention immigration, yet it was precisely the handling of this issue that defined Salvini's politics. Why didn't Conte hold out the prospect of abolishing the security decrees? ... Wouldn't this have been one of the elements that would stand for the much cited 'newness'? ... The vagueness and the contradictions in Conte's speech create major doubts about this government that is based on an agreement between a reformist and a populist party.”

Polityka (PL) /

Not much in common

The two parties will have a hard time working out a joint programme, Polityka predicts:

“Conte wants to stop the income tax hikes. The Democratic Party is calling for a pro-European foreign policy. Both parties agree that the state's internal security system must be overhauled, although Di Maio and Zingaretti have radically different ideas about how that should be done. The tunnel project for the Turin-Lyon high-speed railway line - the most recent bone of contention between Lega and M5S - is also under discussion. The new coalition is being set up 'on the fly': its leaders don't want to put everything in writing.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Italy making the impossible possible

For El Mundo Italy's new government deserves credit despite its flaws:

“The new coalition is no less outlandish than the old one, but politics sometimes brings strange bedfellows together: two groups that up to now had insulted each other endlessly, with one of them defending the democratic institutions and the other adopting a radical anti-establishment discourse, have made an effort to conduct a dialogue and cooperate. ... The new PM must now form a cohesive government, which won't be easy. ... Its priorities must be finding a solution to Italy's serious economic crisis, facilitating democratic regeneration that restores the citizens' trust in politics, and repairing Italy's battered international image. ... Nevertheless, the lesson Italy has offered us could serve as inspiration for this country's political class.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Brussels must help Rome

The EU must also do something to prevent Salvini's comeback, Der Standard demands:

“At least with the next budget Brussels must allow the Italians more flexibility, because if the first thing the Five Star-PD government has to do in the autumn is present the people with a blood-and-tears budget this would be a wonderful gift to Salvini for the elections. A second point is that the EU partners - meaning all of them - must finally show solidarity in managing the influx of refugees. This means for example Europe setting up its own sea rescue operations again. If Italy is put into a financial straitjacket and left to deal with the boat refugees on its own the new government won't survive another six months. Instead, Salvini will return stronger than ever.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The same old song instead of a fresh start

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is already dubious about the coalition's prospects:

“What is needed now is a joint, constructive agenda that debunks the Lega leader's propaganda, ends the polarisation in the country and strengthens Italy's ties with its foreign partners after a year of growing international isolation. ... But there is no indication that the PD and Cinque Stelle are focussed on content. On the contrary, during the coalition talks the two parties spent most of the time bickering over posts - the same old song in Italy. If this continues, Salvini can hope to pull off his summer coup after all. Perhaps very soon and even more triumphantly than he had imagined.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Playing with fire continues

Commenting in Corriere della Sera columnist Massimo Franco fears further tensions:

“And not just because the Five Star Movement and PD are sitting on a pile of toxic barrels that have accumulated over the years and need disposing of: a legacy of controversies and hatred that could poison relations between them if something goes wrong. ... But also because the right is reacting to Matteo Salvini's government own goal in a way that is only exacerbating the tensions, and it is concealing its own errors instead of analysing them. But dividing Italy's society is a dangerous game. It promotes radicalism and reduces strategies to mere election propaganda.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Salvini has shot himself in the foot

Salvini has really messed up, Fabio Pontiggia, chief editor of Corriere del Ticino, notes with relish:

“The first Conte government based on the contract signed between Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini was toppled by the Lega leader, let's not forget. Delirious with a sense of power after the success of the European elections on 26 May, this leader has managed to mess up everything that could be messed up. Now the captain and his crew have fabricated a conspiracy theory that casts the Lega as the victim of a plot to oust the party that was concocted in recent months by a myriad enemies. ... Salvini invented the theory of too many 'nos' [from his coalition partner]. In reality he received only one clear, resounding, conclusive 'no'. It came from Giuseppe Conte nine days ago in the Senate.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Stomach pains for the Social Democrats

PD voters will be severely put to the test, La Repubblica believes:

“In the worst case they will feel they have been used against their will as a crutch by Cinque Stelle which, after its coalition with the worst far-right party failed so spectacularly, is now only keeping hold of the reins thanks to the support of the PD - the very party that for years Cinque Stelle portrayed as the perfect embodiment of the betrayal of the people's interests, profit-first thinking and the political caste. ... In the best case they will breathe a sigh of relief at the temporary neutralisation of Salvini's detestable arrogance. ... But that relief will not suffice to allow them to regard with calm or optimism the future of a government alliance that at its very heart seems predestined for conflict, mutual suspicion and misunderstanding.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Marriage of convenience could hold long-term

PD leader Nicola Zingaretti wants a lasting alliance with Five Star rather than a short-lived one, and this could be the solution, La Stampa believes:

“The operation is ambitious, but it is based on indisputable facts: when you govern together - on the basis of a clear alliance rather than a contract - you assume joint responsibility vis-à-vis the voters. Secondly, Lega, if it remains in government, will no doubt try to forge a new centre-right pact to be able to present itself as a potentially unbeatable front in elections. Thirdly, if they act separately the PD and Five Star will lose elections practically everywhere, regardless of which electoral system is used. All this leads to the conclusion that a government pact with Five Star makes sense if it paves the way for the emergence of a new two-party system.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Little chance of a majority

Columnist Antonio Polito is sceptical about the possibility of a coalition between the Social Democrats and Cinque Stelle:

“Forming a government would require a political agreement and a political majority. ... And today it will be even more difficult to achieve this than a year ago. Firstly because of the gruelling petty warfare of recent months that has poisoned the political climate. Secondly because of the weakening of many of the initial protagonists, in particular those in Cinque Stelle. ... And finally because of the incredible confusion of personal manoeuvres within the parties. One example: in the PD [ex-prime minister] Matteo Renzi is for the agreement which he prevented a year ago while [current party leader] Zingaretti is against it.”

Mérce (HU) /

Things don't look good for Italy

For Mérce Italy faces a real dilemma:

“A crisis government born out of necessity would have a very difficult time getting anything of any consequence done due to the participants' widely varying interests and values. So it could easily happen that frustrated voters turn away from the 'double-dealing elites' and towards the far right. But if power is left to the Salvini-led far right this could have unpredictable consequences. Hence there is no good solution to the current political crisis. We can only hope that the slogan 'It's always darkest before the dawn' will also apply to Italy.”

Polityka (PL) /

Berlusconi still sitting at the controls

Polityka believes the story could still take an unexpected turn:

“One solution for Salvini would be to form a committee between Lega and Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi's party. These parties would then run for election with a joint list without having to sign a coalition agreement after the vote. ... In Italy media disputes and rhetoric confrontations will take place every day over the next two months. Salvini will probably lead them and seek to polarise the country as much as possible, because he benefits most from such a situation. True, he remains the favourite for the post of prime minister. Nonetheless, he can't be sure he'll get it. Because although years and even decades have gone by one thing hasn't changed in Italian politics: in the end everything still depends on Silvio Berlusconi.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

An unpredictable outcome

Italy is currently in a state of absolute political uncertainty, writes Jutarnji list:

“The separation of the xenophobes from the sovereigntist Lega, which decided to topple the government that they themselves had dominated in order to demand a 'free hand' and 'full power' (in the words of its leader Matteo Salvini), and the dysfunctional Cinque Stelle has landed Italy in a state of utter political uncertainty. This will be largely resolved by Friday but right now all options are open. Because in this parliament there will be no majority unless two of the three leading parties (Lega, Cinque Stelle and PD) join forces, and the question is whether elections would give any of them an absolute majority.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Salvini wants to mobilise the masses

The Lega leader won't keep quiet until new elections are held, predicts Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“'We will gather peacefully on Italy's squares to assert our right to vote,' Salvini announced in response to the possibility of his political opponents joining forces and forming a coalition. In his opinion, the will of the mobilised masses takes precedent over the decisions of the people's democratically elected representatives. ... Matteo Salvini wants to use pressure from the street to overturn democratic procedures if their results don't suit him, for example when Matteo Renzi returns to government by virtue of a parliamentary decision. As long as the protest remains peaceful no one can object to it. Demonstrating is a basic democratic right.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Lega boss could become even more radical

El Periódico de Catalunya also doesn't believe the brakes have been put on Salvini:

“One look at the interior minister's actions is enough to tell you that every situation can still get even worse. When Salvini says he now feels like 'a free man' the implication is that, up to now he had felt obliged to act with restraint with regard to migration and his other governmental responsibilities. In other words, he can be even more radical in his furious nationalism, even more indifferent to the fate of the most vulnerable, and even more inclined to disregard EU directives.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Let's see who has the last laugh

The situation could also produce an unexpected victor, La Repubblica contends:

“The 'government of change' is coming to an inglorious end; instead of a masterpiece by Salvini, he has badly miscalculated. ... [Salvini] has managed to bring down the government, drive the Lega to suicide and resurrect Di Maio and the PD in one fell swoop. ... It may seem paradoxical but [PD leader] Zingaretti is the only one who has perhaps been able to save face so far. ... He suffered under Renzi's unbelievable management but he tolerated it, even at the risk of seeming too compliant once more. He didn't rush to the deathbed of the yellow-green coalition and nor did he give his blessing to the Frankenstein-like yellow-red coalition [between the Cinque Stelle and PD]. Now he can wait calmly for the president's decision without burning his fingers.”