January 29, 2021


ITALY: Crisis set to fester for a bit longer

BY Wolfango Piccoli

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While today (29 January) marks the third and final day of the formal consultations held by President Sergio Mattarella with party delegations, a solution to the government crisis is still not in sight. In the most likely scenario, a path to a solution will only develop after a worsening of the crisis, while noise about snap polls could intensify. A way out is unlikely to emerge until the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the odds against a third government led by the caretaker Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are rising. Conte has so far failed to lure unaligned and opposition senators into the government’s ranks to restore his majority – a near impossible task without the support of Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva (IV). While Renzi wants to be part of a new government, he is unwilling to back Conte, even if Renzi denies having posed a veto against the PM. At present, Renzi’s game is to keep all options open so as to maximize his leverage, while leaving the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD) in an increasingly tight spot.

Mattarella’s consultations will finish today in the late afternoon (around 6pm local time), after his meetings with center-right opposition and the M5S. In this regard, it will be worth monitoring whether the M5S will refuse outright any possible new governing deal with IV (around 40 lawmakers from the party are threatening to depart if a compromise is reached with Renzi) or whether M5S takes a more ambivalent line on this crucial issue.

Once the consultations are over, Mattarella will announce his decision based on what he will have heard over the past three days. Mattarella’s options are as follows:

  • Giving an exploratory mandate to an institutional figure to ascertain if a new majority can be composed. The most likely candidate is the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico, who is a member of the M5S and enjoys a good relationship with the PD leadership. Fico’s likely main task would be to find a formula to bridge the divide between the M5S and Renzi’s IV.
  • Calling for another round of consultations.
  • Giving an exploratory mandate to Conte. This could become more likely if the M5S suggests it is open to a deal with Renzi. At present, however, this is the least likely option.

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