Five Star threatens to pull out of Italy’s national unity government

Five Star threatens to pull out of Italy’s national unity government


Italy’s populist Five Star Movement says it will not support Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government in a critical confidence vote on Thursday, threatening another bout of political turmoil.

In a meeting late on Wednesday night, Giuseppe Conte, the Five Star leader, said he could no longer back Draghi’s cross-party government, which he accused of not doing enough to help families battered by spiralling food and energy costs.

“I have a strong fear that September will be a time when families will face the choice of paying their electricity bill or buying food,” he said after a day of frenetic political consultations.

Conte had presented the prime minister with several policy demands in a meeting last week, including the cancellation of a contentious waste-to-energy plant proposed for the capital Rome.

Although the administration had yet to respond to his requests, he said, he held out the possibility for further talks to resolve differences. “We are absolutely willing to dialogue, to make our constructive contribution to the government, to Draghi, but we are not willing to write a blank cheque,” Conte said.

The implosion of the national unity government, which could trigger earlier elections that were set for spring next year, would come at a sensitive time for Italy, which is expected to be the largest single recipient of the EU’s €750bn Covid recovery fund.

A government collapse would raise doubts about Italy’s ability to pass its budget in the autumn and enact critical reforms to help accelerate the country’s long-term growth trajectory — on which the dispersal of the EU money depends.

Opposition parties have indicated that they could call for an early election and that it was untenable for Draghi to remain in power if Five Star pulled out.

“If a coalition party doesn’t back a government decree, enough is enough, it seems clear that we should go to elections,” said Matteo Salvini, head of the rightwing League.

Conte, who served as prime minister before Draghi, has been disgruntled since foreign minister Luigi Di Maio walked out of Five Star last month, taking about a third of the party’s lawmakers with him, over differences on Rome’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Draghi has reoriented Italy’s foreign policy and has been a strong supporter of Kyiv. He was one of the main architects of tough EU sanctions against Moscow, a sharp break from the country’s traditional sympathy towards Russia.

While Di Maio has stood firmly behind Draghi’s, Conte has questioned whether military aid to Ukraine was simply perpetuating the war.

Draghi, who was previously the president of the European Central Bank, has said repeatedly that he would only lead a cross-party national unity government and could not head an administration that did not include Five Star, which was the largest party in parliament before the recent split.

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: Ipodifier