Salvini Faces A Political Minefield After EU Elections
Since the moment Lega and Five Star Movement entered into a coalition government after 2018’s election, there has been a concerted external campaign to sow dissent between the two coalition members.
It seems a week doesn’t go by where I don’t see a headline saying that the end of the “Italian Government is Nigh” or some such nonsense.
Incessant poll watching, childish gotcha legal challenges and hair-splitting by European ‘journalists’ results in continuous speculation about when Lega leader Matteo Salvini will finally get tired of his left-of-center coalition partner and sweep away the government.
The votes were barely counted when the countdown to new elections in Italy began in the press. Salvini’s Lega took 34% of the vote while M5S just 17%.
It made Lega, along with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party the two biggest single political parties in the European Parliament.
Salvini came out on Thursday and put some of those gremlins to bed.
There will be no early election, in September we will be preparing the budget,” Salvini told reporters in parliament.
“If I wanted to bring down the government I wouldn’t spend night and day putting together policy proposals,” Salvini said. “There are so many things to do, I don’t want an early election.”
At the same time Bloomberg is reporting that Salvini is threatening to blow up the coalition if M5S doesn’t back his part of their agenda – a flat tax, infrastructure spending and increased political power for the northern Italian states.
The failing leadership of Luigi Di Maio of M5S could change things. Di Maio faces a vote on Tuesday to remain party leader. If he loses, Salvini may be forced to kill the coalition because Di Maio’s replacement will be unlikely to work with him, at least that’s the line Bloomberg is peddling.
The EU would like nothing more than for this to happen.
Because without M5S Salvini would be hard-pressed to form a new government committed to the types of reforms and confrontations with Brussels he needs to front unless Lega took close to a real majority.
Salvini would have to then go back to Forza Italia and Silvio Berlusconi who he crossed last year to form the coalition with Di Maio. And Berlusconi will do as he’s told.
His only other potential dance partner who wouldn’t make life miserable for him would be the Brothers of Italy who never score higher than 5%.
And M5S wouldn’t be happy with Salvini at all if he called for snap elections now. So, unless Lega’s poll numbers climb to 45% by the end of the year, Salvini may be stuck for a while. And this is why he’s not publicly looking for new elections.
Brussels will pounce on every small division between the two parties and attempt to separate them.
That’s why you keep hearing about it from the major press, they want to goad him, via his ego, into calling for elections.
Not only would it put Salvini in a coalition with people hostile to his sovereignist agenda, it would make him an even bigger target of media hatred.
It would give the goons in Brussels someone to conflate with the rest of the new “Far-Right Neo-Nazis” rising across Europe to scare the people with. Salvini, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, France’s Marine Le Pen (who’s more leftist than half of the Greens I know) and, of course, Britain’s Nigel Farage are the new bogey(wo)men of 21st century Europe.
But is any of this division ever true?
In this case it’s likely more smoke than fire. Salvini and Di Maio are on opposite sides of some basic economic issues, but they have also both shown a great ability to craft a unified front to present to both Europe and Italians over the year of their partnership.
No relationship is without its problems. But that doesn’t mean that every time one mildly disagrees with the other that the government will come down tomorrow. But that’s the way it is presented daily.
In fact, their overcoming ideological differences is the very thing that makes them so dangerous. Because they have put those differences aside, somewhat, to tackle the bigger issues first – getting a better deal out of Brussels, and failing that, convincing the Italian people that there is no negotiating with the EU.
And that’s where their power truly lies, in exposing the intractable and tyrannical nature of the EU leadership and its rules. Showing Italians that no matter what is put forth the EU isn’t working for Italy’s best interests.
Despite their differences in ideology, Salvini and Di Maio are patriots first. And being able to successfully govern from a Euroskeptic position outside of the traditional Left/Right false divide sends a powerful message to the rest of that part of Europe rethinking its commitments to the EU.
Nigel Farage is doing the same thing in Britain with the Brexit Party. And it’s why he’ll win a General Election if Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is stupid enough to call for one after last week’s results. I talked with Rory Hall at The Daily Coin about all of these issues earlier this week. (Listen here)
Looking at the markets’ response to the EU election results it is pretty clear that Europe’s political problems are taking center stage. The EU is already putting pressure on Italy’s capital markets threatening $4 billion in fines the Italians don’t have for potentially breaching budget rules if they go forwards with Salvini’s tax cuts.
Never forget that Germany’s idea of austerity is meant to keep the debtor nation on a drip feed of support in exchange for destroying the value of a nation’s wealth so it can be bought for pennies on the dollar to restructure the debt, c.f. Greece.
That’s the plan for Italy and the clowns in M5S better realize that Salvini is the best chance they have to get what they want or all of this will have been for nothing.
The euro continues to grind lower as Italian debt yields are rising quickly again. Germany’s economic data continues to deteriorate faster than expectations, and Donald Trump waits in the wings to tariff the world if anyone looks at him cross-eyed. Any further disruption of global trade by his Orangeness will only serve to send the dollar higher, debt quality to fade, costs to rise and credit markets to implode, if they aren’t already.
That’s the real struggle Salvini and M5S, no matter who is leading them face. Salvini knows this. The big question now is whether he can shepherd this coalition into an effective buttress against what the EU will throw at them between now and September’s budget talks.
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