Mamma mia! How can one understand Italian politics?

The General Election of 4 March 2018 produced a complex result and negotiations to form a new government – Italy’s 66th government since the Second World War – eventually took almost three months.

The new governing alliance was an unlikely combination of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), which has most of its support in the south, and the far-Right League, which has most of its support in the north. Once they agreed to form a government together, they nominated as President of the Council (or Prime Minister) a virtually unknown law professor Giuseppe Conte who is a member of the Five Star Movement but had no experience whatsoever of political office. 

However, in a matter of days, he resigned because the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella refused to accept his nomination as Finance Minister of a critic of Italy’s membership of the Eurozone. Mattarella then appoined Carlo Cottarelli, a former official at the International Monetary Fund, as interim Prime Minister pending another general election. However, a few days later the coalition parties backed down on the nomination of Finance Minister and Mattarella accepted a government led by Conte.

Then, this month, the League pulled out of the coalition and planned a vote of no confidence in Giuseppe Conte which it expected to lead to a general election. Instead, Conte resigned, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) managed to agree a new coalition with the centre-left Democratic Party, and Conte was reappointed head of the new government. So now there is a 67th Italian government since the Second World War; its composition is as unlikely as the previous government; and it remains to be seen whether it lasts any longer and achieves any more.

For more information, read my short guide to the Italian political system.


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