Italy’s political crisis is a moment of reckoning for European liberal democracy

Whenever you think there is global political stability, some Italian crisis is always around the corner.

Prof James Newell has a piece on ongoing Italian political drama:

After months of wrangling, Italy’s political crisis has a hit an impasse, with new elections now increasingly likely. The country faces an institutional crisis without precedent in the history of the Italian republic. Its implications extend well beyond Italy, to the European Union as a whole.

Since an election on March 4, there have been endless vain attempts to form a government – with the likely outcome changing every 24 hours. By mid-May, the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, both populist parties, had come together to draft a programme for government featuring tax cuts and spending plans. But it sent shivers down the spines of those contemplating Italy’s public debt – running at over 130% of GDP – and threatened the stability of the eurozone.

They were prevented from taking office thanks to their insistence on the appointment of the economics professor, Paolo Savona, as finance minister. Due to Savona’s well-known eurosceptic views, Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, refused to appoint him.

Although Mattarella’s decision is within the constitution, and previous presidents have refused to appoint certain ministers before, it is in many respects without precedent and has arguably enabled the populists – who have a parliamentary majority – to stage a propaganda coup. The institutional crisis has been deepened by M5S’s announcement that it will seek to “impeach” the president and by calls from both parties for public demonstrations to protest Matarella’s decision.

The appointment of Carlo Cottarelli, a former official from the International Monetary Fund, as prime minister on May 28 was merely a stop-gap measure until fresh elections in the autumn. His government will almost certainly fail to win the necessary vote of confidence required of all incoming governments upon taking office. This means that it will be unable to undertake any legislative initiatives that go beyond day-to-day administration.

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