Three issues to be addressed by the ruling coalition after Renzi’s exit

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Having evaded Renzi’s lunge at Palazzo Madama without suffering fatal injuries, for the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his center-left allies the issue to be resolved quickly concerns the expansion of the ruling coalition’s perimeter after the exit of Italia Viva. If the daring events of the Tuesday evening vote confirmed Giuseppe Conte’s surprising staying in power capacity, on the other hand it is the “people’s advocate” himself who is perfectly aware that he cannot govern Italy with a simple relative majority in the Senate.

The M5S-PD coalition was shocked by the inglorious victory won on Tuesday evening (156 votes in favor of Conte, 140 against, absolute majority at 161), which was obtained with the decisive support of life senators, some former M5S MPs and the first two “builders” from the center-right. In fact, the real nightmare scenario concerns the new balances of power in parliamentary committees, which are key for the functioning of legislative activity and where there is a stalemate risk (which means no victory) or even that the ruling coalition might ends up in minority.

In this case, Renzi’s party has the possibility of exercising a truly formidable veto power against his old allies, especially at Palazzo Madama. In fact, in the event that Italia Viva were to opt to take sides with the opposition, the M5S-PD-LEU ruling alliance would keep its advantage only in three committees out of the Senate’s 14: Finance, Agriculture and Jobs. A bit of a situation when the committees – starting from the two most important: Budget and Constitutional Affairs – will be tasked to overhaul the Recovery Plan after the European reliefs or write down the new proportional electoral law that was announced by Conte in Parliament.

Hence the need to quickly set up the “fourth leg” of the coalition in Parliament, or the group in which to place any lawmaker wishing to give its contribution to the executive in difficulty, drawing from the three great political families evoked by Conte for the success of the operation: popular, liberal and socialist. At stake is to secure the executive, to ensure smooth sailing until the end of the Legislature and to rebalance the parliamentary committees in favor of the M5S-PD ruling coalition.

The memory of Berlusconi’s fourth Cabinet in 2011 frightens the allies (ample majority in Parliament but no clear lead in several key committees blocked the executive’s action until its final collapse). After all, after the Tuesday vote, the ruling majority might face difficulties also in the Chamber of Deputies, where it is certain of its numerical pre-eminence only in eight committees.

The attempt to expand the majority’s numbers in Parliament to give stability to the government in the quick times requested by the Head of State to Conte must now deal with the eternal return of the “judicial variable” – or the terrible stone guest that grips Italian politics from time to time. The issue concerns the probe involving Lorenzo Cesa, who promptly resigned from the post of UDC secretary after being investigated with the hypothesis of external partnership with Mafia associations in the context of an anti-Ndrangheta operation led by the Prosecutor of Catanzaro. With its three senators, the tiny centrist UDC party had been indicated for days as a possible new ally for the ruling majority. The investigation into Cesa turns the tables: on the one hand it could free the centrist MPs from the restraint of their former secretary – who is hostile to any agreement with Conte and advocates the alliance with the center-right opposition; on the other hand, it could make the UDC too indigestible for any pact with the populist and anti-establishment M5S.

Finally, the hunt for lawmakers leaving the opposition is also linked to the analyses published this week on Prime Minister Conte’s power network in Rome and on the electoral performance of his hypothetical list. The event that this political formation ends up by coagulating up to 15% of electors’ consensus, attracting center-left and M5S voters in the first place, has in fact prompted several PD and 5-Stars bigwigs to ask the premier to put aside any electoral fantasy in order to focus on hunting for “builders” in Parliament. Moreover, recent Italian history teaches that when technicians have chosen to become politicians they have ended up losing most, if not all, of their credibility.