Contributed from Victoria
It took only two days for the president of that country, Sergio Mattarella, to back down on appointing a former banker form the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Italy breathed a sigh of relief. Bankers are not in high regard and the fallout from the appointment, was so strong that it could go ahead.
The two parties that had scored the highest votes in this year’s March election, are forming the government.
One is the new Five Star Movement (M5S), which among other things, favours direct democracy, opposes austerity, champions a guaranteed income for all Italians and is pro-environment. The other is the Northern League (Liga Nord), which is in many ways the antithesis of M5M and has a relationship with France’s National Front, the Dutch Party for Freedom and other similar parties through Europe.
The only thing they have in common, is antipathy to the European Union and the Euro currency.
It is hard to see how they can work together. The strange turn of events is the result of their rise and the decline of the traditional political parties. This is a feature that is becoming more common around the world and in Europe, and it has hit Italy.
Those who suggest that these events are not serious and represent doing politics the traditional Italian style, cannot see the wood for the trees. True, unstable and sort-term government have been a ritual for most of the time since World Wart Two. It is not the same now. Italy was in a period of economic growth then. It is not now. People had much more faith in the essentially two-party system that saw, more or less, the same government come up again and again, except with new faces at the head.
Now the economy is much bleaker, faith in the traditional parties and politicians has dwindled, there is a reaction against what is seen as the greed of big business, especially the banks, and Italians want something else.
It is this new mood that gave rise to M5S in the south and the Liga in the north. They offer different choices. M5S offers its form of people power and sharing the wealth of the country. The Liga offers some restriction on the excesses of big business, but also more austerity and the expulsion of immigrants.
The replacement prime minister is Giuseppi Conte, who is a law professor. The deputy prime ministers of the new government are M5S leader Luigi De Maio and Liga leader Matteo Salvini. Di Maio has also taken the key economic development and labour portfolios and another M5S member (Elizabetta Trenta) will get defence. Sabini will become interior minister. Independents (Paolo Savona and Giovani Tria) will be the Finance and foreign affairs ministers.
This will be a government that promises to lift spending on social services, while at the same time taking on the Lega’s demand to reduce taxes and work for a flat rate of 15 or 20 percent.
Onr the one side there will be pressure to make government more humanitarian and raise equality. On the other, the pressure will be to lift law and order and make a push against immigrants. This battle will be fought out. It is inevitable. The question is how?
Too all appearances, this is a recipe for internal conflict. Even if this comes to pass, it is possible that there will be enough momentum to get through some immediate changes. It is a question of the respective strengths inside the Coalition.
Other than this, all bets are off. Chances are that Italy will be back at the polls before too long. By then, the choice between two clearly different directions might clearer. Only one thing seems certain, Italy will not go back to the old guard easily.