Italy's New Government: A populist rise near the birthday of the Republic.


As long as it lasts, Italy has now officially formed a government. Italy's anti-establishment coalition partners reached a new deal on Thursday, promising to end three months of political turmoil. 

After months of political uncertainty, the two biggest parties — the far-right League and anti-establishment 5 Star Movement — put aside their differences and forged an unexpected coalition. The Italian Constitution does not provide time limits for the formation of coalition governments, but it was past time for the representatives in Rome to finally constitute the government. The news comes only a few days before the biggest Italian Holiday the "Festa della Repubblica" that celebrates the birthday of the Italian Republic after the World War 2 (Italian Referendum).

It was the second time the coalition presented and asked President Matarella approval for the Cabinet. He declined the first proposal last week, due to radical anti-Euro ideas from one of the members of the Cabinet (Paolo Savona as the economy minister). Savona is still there on the list, what I think is a complete disrespect to the President from the coalition, but now, he is in a much less problematic position, as EU Affairs Minister.


Matteo Salvini on the other hand will be the interior minister. The League leader, 45, will also be a deputy prime minister, as will 5Star chief Luigi Di Maio, and it’s clear that the two deputies will be much more powerful than Conte, the prime minister.

Salvini has on several occasions spoken out in favor of an Italexit but like his role model, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, he also pays lip service to the EU and has said “the League backs the peoples’ Europe.”

The governing contract he drew up with the 5Stars contains the goal of sending back half a million migrants and keeping them locked up for up to 18 months while the paperwork is completed. It’s been criticized for being draconian but locking migrants up for 18 months is allowed under EU law. One Brussels official even said that if Salvini makes it work in “a legal and human way, it could become a model” for other countries.

He’s already been dubbed the “sheriff minister” by analysts who expect him to be on the frontline of rounding up migrants.

Salvini’s debut could be on Tuesday at a meeting of EU interior ministers at which they will discuss reform of asylum rules ahead of a meeting of EU leaders later this month.

Luigi Di Maio will be the labor and development minister and he will oversee a jumbo ministry that brings together the departments of economic development and labor. Like Salvini, he does not have a university degree (he dropped out of law school in Naples) and will be a deputy prime minister.

Although Di Maio is the leader of the 5Stars, that’s a short-term situation as internal party rules put a two-term cap on MPs. That in part explains why he seemed so determined to get into power as it could have been his last chance.

For the 5Stars, getting into office is a big achievement. The League has been in power before alongside Silvio Berlusconi but this is the first time in such high office for the movement set up by comedian Beppe Grillo. And with 32 percent of the vote in the March 4 election, Di Maio is the majority shareholder in the government (the League got 17 percent).

Di Maio’s ministry is key for his party. The 5Stars have made labor an important part of their platform — and in the process wrested it away from the center-left — by proposing a universal income (although that’s morphed into better unemployment benefits). The joint government contract promises an income of €780 a month, for a maximum of two years, but the recipient can turn down only three job offers before losing the money. In many parts of the country’s poor south, where the 5Stars enjoy huge support, being offered three jobs is unlikely.


Sources: BBC, The Guardian