Coalition row for committees’ chairs

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In the great story of Italian politics, a passage on the chaos staged Wednesday for the renewal of 28 presidencies of the Parliament’s standing committees could certainly not be missing. An event that repeats cyclically in the middle of each parliamentary term; this year it was anticipated by the hectic negotiations (euphemism) conducted by ruling coalition parties. Up to Wednesday evening’s catharsis: when tensions, calculations and discontent that had increased for weeks found sudden and above all free rein in the secret ballot. Shattering the agreements laboriously reached and causing a frightening heeling in the relations among ruling parties. All this, despite the compactness shown just a few hours earlier in the Parliament floor on other crucial issues, such as the vote on the €25 billion budget deviation that will serve to finance the upcoming ‘August’ decree. Except for triggering also other political consequences that will affect the future of the current Legislature.

The reference is to the sudden repositioning on the Open Arms case of Renzi’s centrist Italia Viva group: the choice to take sides against opposition League leader Matteo Salvini after the decisive abstention of last May has in fact given the go-ahead to the judiciary request for indictment of Italy’s former Interior Minister. The episode will not fail to inflame the already tormented relationship between the judiciary and politics, waiting to understand if Renzi’s calculation was dictated by the fact of having just won all the four committees presidencies agreed with the allies (including the one strongly disliked by the M5S, that is Luigi Marattin’s election at the head of the Finance Committee in the Chamber of Deputies) or the latest developments concerning the judicial storm against the League’s Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana.

The incident will also offer new arguments to theorists of “the political use of justice as a weapon to get rid of opponents”, in a delicate intertwining of principles ranging from the protection of civil liberties to respect for the rule of law. Controversies certainly do not concern only the ruling coalition-opposition balance of power. In the M5S, for instance, party leaders are under attack for not having defended the agreements with allies – which won all their presidencies – as well as for not having avoided treason within the ranks. Which in the Senate sunk both the appointment of M5S’ Lorefice at the head of Agriculture Committee and LEU’s Grasso at the presidency of Justice Committee, paving the way for the reconfirmation of the two opposition League outgoing presidents.

Not to mention the sensational decision to transfer ten MPs from the Chamber Finance Committee who had opposed the election of Marattin, or the temporary nominee at the head of the Justice Committee of Italia Viva’s Vitiello – a former M5S member who was expelled from the party for his adhesion to the Masonic lodge The Sphinx.

A truly worrying records for the coalition’s grip on power ahead of the Autumn, when it is probable that all the socioeconomic issues postponed in recent months will explode all together. In the meantime, the long and exhausting march towards the adoption of the ESM bailout fund continues. It will be the real turning point for the future of the Conte Cabinet.