Italian Interior Minister and leader of The League Matteo Salvini was thwarted in his push to get control of Italy’s fractious political landscape recently. Salvini pushed for new elections after declaring the coalition government with Five Star Movement unworkable.
His motion to bring a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte failed in the Italian senate after his former coalition partners entertained a proposal from the formerly-powerful Democrats.
In the end it shouldn’t have been a shock to see Five Star make strange bedfellows with the party and the political apparatus it was built to fight. Because had they backed Salvini they would have had to accept outsider status since polls have moved so far against them over the fourteen months of their working together.
It turns out that no matter how revolutionary one is supposed to be, in politics, retaining access to power becomes the over-riding concern. In general, the first goal of any organization is survival and Five Star made the Hobson’s Choice of siding with Matteo Renzi’s Democrats to stay in power rather than stand on their principles and abide by the will of the Italian people, who are clearly now behind Salvini and his League.
As I pointed out in my last article, The League is polling at levels Five Star has never reached, 38-40%, while Five Star’s support has collapsed to the high teens after taking more than 28% in March 2018’s election.
So, Salvini’s ‘betrayal’ of Five Star, who foot-dragged implementing any of Salvini’s part of their stated agenda, led directly to Five Star’s betrayal of Salvini.
But looking at the polls it’s clear that Salvini’s brand of right-of-center populism is popular. And Five Star Leader Luigi Di Maio’s decision to go against that grain will not bode well for his party going forward.
It’s clear Salvini has the population’s ear on reforms, tax cuts, infrastructure spending and ending German-led, EU-imposed austerity.
In the near term it looks like Di Maio has gotten the better of his former ruling partner. The president, Sergei Mattarella, will happily countenance a Democrat/Five Star coalition to ensure that nothing radical happens over the crucial next two years as the European Union faces the biggest challenges to its future ever.
This is especially true with it looking increasingly likely that the United Kingdom will leave the EU on Halloween without a withdrawal agreement.
But Di Maio is now in the same position that another reformer turned toady was in after he betrayed his country in 2015, Greece’s Alexis Tsipras.
To remind everyone, Tsipras is now out of a job and one of the most hated people in Greece. So complete was his sell out of the Greek people, he ushered back into power a center-right government in July.
Five Star was born out of the disgust Italians had for its leadership in Rome and the technocratic overthrow of Silvio Berlusconi’s government back in 2011.
It was a pure protest party, especially when Beppe Grillo was its figurehead. Now, it’s making deals to stay in power with those same technocrats.
Di Maio has to think very carefully about where things go from here. Remember, it was the Democrats who refused to ally with Five Star last year leading to the nominally Euroskeptic alliance between it and The League that has tried to govern since last June.
It’s true that Five Star has suffered since it teamed up with The League but that’s a self-inflicted wound as Salvini ran rings around them for not supporting him as his popularity grew.
What’s coming here is that if Five Star does a deal with Renzi and the Democrats it will be a betrayal of the same order as what Syriza under Tsipras pulled with Greece. And Salvini, cast in the role of opposition, will have a field day sniping the government at every turn as Conte, Mattarella and their pet Finance Minister Giovanni Tria sell Italy out back to Brussels.
And it will be Salvini that has the last laugh as Five Star gets nothing in return for selling out, Italy gets crushed further and the migrant caravan of George Soros re-opens. Di Maio and Five Star had their opportunity to stick it to the EU as it struggles with a sovereign debt crisis and the German financial and political system is stressed to the gills.
And it failed.
Politics at this level is all about ego. Di Maio wasn’t able to quell the leftist malcontents within his own party and because of that couldn’t deliver on promises made when the coalition formed.
He’s now set his party on the path to destruction while Salvini gets to walk away having lost nothing of note. His policies weren’t going to be implemented in a coalition with Five Star and Conte as Prime Minister.
Now he’s exposed all of them, inadvertently or otherwise, including his former partners, as the useless social climbers they are rather than the patriots and rebels they advertised themselves to be to the Italian people.
Salvini’s best move here is to continue with his plans to call for another vote. Force Five Star on record and undercut their position with the electorate further. And after that, bide his time, and work The League’s position in the European Parliament.
Because while you can manipulate events in the short-term you can’t change the overall trend. This is something both the EU and the Italian deep state have yet to learn.