During the week, opposition Forza Italia’s expected parliamentary backing for the ruling majority has materialized after days of conjecture and backgrounds.
The big news is the fact that Parliament has voted almost unanimously to approve the budget deviation requested by the government, which authorizes a deficit increase worth of €8 billion to deal with the economic emergency. Far-right Lega and Fratelli d’Italia parties have chosen to accept the line of collaboration long invoked by Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi, who is the man behind the operation, guaranteeing the executive the compact support of the entire center-right in a passage that otherwise could have been very complicated for the ruling majority.
It will take time to understand if this climate of unity of purpose can really last and, above all, if it represents the turning point for the legislature. Optimists explain that the Italian Parliament has finally managed to decide regardless of the opposing alignments after years of misunderstanding and ideological battles, evaluating things objectively and in the name of common sense. Realists, on the contrary, argue that behind the truce signed by Salvini and Meloni with their archenemy Premier Conte there was simple tactics. In other words, the finding that failing one’s votes on the budget deviation after Forza Italia had asked for and obtained an additional effort also for freelancers would have meant exposing oneself to a smear media campaign.
The deepening of parliamentary debates and work on the Budget Law will say a lot about the actual consistency of this celebrated harmony. In addition to the possibility of bringing a substantial piece of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party closer to the government, the unity of the center-right is at stake now that great manoeuvres and parties positioning ahead of the election of the next head of State are in sight.
At the systemic level, however, the vote on the budget deviation must not overshadow the ongoing tensions in the ruling majority. Italia Viva (IV)-M5S differences on various issues such as anti-Covid strategy and economic priorities have been on the agenda for a few weeks now; the rift created by the possible accession to the ESM bailout fund, fiercely opposed by the 5Stars but asked by IV and the Democratic Party (PD); the clashes between the PD and IV’s Matteo Renzi regarding the anti-Covid measures adopted by Palazzo Chigi; the hypothesis of a cabinet reshuffle to ease the tensions between the allies, which have been repeatedly denied by Prime Minister Conte.
In this regard, the issue of the relationship between the premier and the ruling parties was the other major political issue of the week. The PD fears in particular the castling of Palazzo Chigi’s tenant despite a list of unfilled dossiers that gets longer as the days go by. Just to stay with the most recent, among the most emblematic are the ballet of Calabrian health managers or the thirty or so commissioners for public works who fail to become such. Infrastructure Ministry has provided the list, Treasury marked the costs, Palazzo Chigi struggles to select the names.
Despite the reform season announced with great fanfare by PD Secretary Zingaretti following the victory in the referendum to cut lawmakers, in the dock is above all the ease with which Conte would take action only to shore up himself and his closest associates, moving to assure his political survival while the country is living a profoundly dramatic phase.
At this point it is difficult to believe those who are predicting an unlikely showdown when Parliament has sacked the budget law at the end of December. It is more realistic to imagine that the government will survive until spring, when the health alarm will finally be tempered by the arrival of the vaccine and the parties will be free to identify – if they succeed – a new mediator to be placed in Palazzo Chigi.