Tensions in the majority on the eve of the G7

On Saturday Giorgia Meloni will chair the first meeting of G7 Heads of State and Government under the Italian presidency. At the center of the debate is one major issue, that of Ukraine, on the day of the second anniversary of the Russian invasion. A particularly symbolic date that justifies the participation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and proves the Group of Seven’s intention to use this confrontation to reaffirm support for Ukraine. Indeed, the Italian-led G7 has the task of presenting Zelensky with concrete answers on how it intends to proceed in defense of Kiev, despite an international situation that has become particularly tense over the past year. The slow and ineffective Ukrainian counteroffensive, rifts in Kiev’s military leadership, new open crises in the Middle East, and, not least, Trump’s possible return to the U.S. presidency, weigh heavily on the Ukrainian balance sheet. The prospect that Western leaders, primarily our Prime Minister, are working toward is therefore a further tightening of sanctions against the Kremlin, in a climate moreover of great concern following the death of Russia’s leading dissident, Alexey Navalny.

Navalny, who died Feb. 16, according to the Russian Prison Service, had been considered the most important figure in Russia’s democracy movement for about 15 years, as well as the main internal threat to Putin’s power. Although he had been held in a maximum-security prison for more than three years, Navalny had dedicated his life to exposing the corruption and malpractice of Russia’s political elite, becoming a somewhat popular political figure internationally. On Monday, Alexei’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, released a video to announce her intention to continue her husband’s efforts and his opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The issue immediately drew condemnatory reactions from various international observers, even gaining center stage in the domestic debate. In Italy, in fact, all political forces have tightened their commemoration of the Moscow dissident without distinction between majority and opposition. The affair inevitably turned the public spotlight back on Putin’s Russia, held by many to be responsible for the incident, almost exactly one month before the Russian presidential elections. Yet the protests held in Rome remained somewhat ambiguous, and the parties did not all take the same side in the demonstration promoted by Carlo Calenda. Matteo Salvini, in particular, made headlines by taking a somewhat “guarantor-like” stance on the incident and commenting on it this way, “We cannot judge what happened on the other side of the world. I understand his wife’s position, but clarity is for doctors and judges, certainly not us”.  Words that provoked outrage from the opposition, but were not welcomed by allies either, all the more so when uttered just hours before the first Melon-led G7 meeting.

Moreover, international issues are not the only theme on which the majority is clashing. In fact, the debate on the third term of office has continued, which contrasted the positions of the Lega on one side and FdI and FI on the other for days. If on Thursday morning the Carroccio party withdrew the amendment to introduce the third term for mayors of large cities, it also decided to go ahead with the one on regional presidents, which was later rejected by the Constitutional Affairs Committees, also at the behest of the other majority forces. “We will try again: for us the game is not closed. We are convinced that the ineligibility of a representative of the citizens must pass only by a popular vote. It cannot be a norm to say that a governor who has done well, liked by the citizens, cannot be elected because of the decision of the parties,” said Leghist Senator Paolo Tosato. The fact that the majority has split, he added, “is not a problem, the government has left freedom to vote correctly, there is no fracture or repercussion on government activities, we will re-propose the issue in the future in other measures”. Yet the upcoming regional elections in Sardinia, to be held on Sunday, Feb. 25, have also seen the two main parties in the national government clash. If Fratelli d’Italia insisted on presenting Paolo Truzzu, the current candidate of the right-wing breakfast, Lega would have preferred Solinas, the leader of the Sardinian Azione Party who was elected in 2019 thanks precisely to Lega’s support. It will be seen in a few days whether this choice was successful or not.