Italy’s deputy prime minister and League leader, Matteo Salvini, has called for new elections in October.
Salvini said “it’s like with a married couple. If you put more time in exchanging insults and arguments than in making love, you need the courage to look into each other’s eyes and take an adult decision.”
Salvini demanded both chambers of parliament come back from holiday to prove that the current government has no majority.
“The members of parliament of the League are ready on Monday or Tuesday, or even on Sunday if necessary”, he declared.
Salvini also stated that he is candidate for prime minister and that his candidacy is what the elections will be about. He refused a government of “experts”, saying the “it’s up to the Italians to decide again”.
The train that split the government
The governing coalition of the populist Five Star Movement and the hard-right League has been fighting over several issues in its brief life of a little more than one year.
Deputy prime minister Luigi di Maio and prime minister Giuseppe Conte, both from the Five Star Movement, were never happy with the way Salvini tackled migration.
They only reluctantly agreed to Salvini’s refusal to let ships enter Italian ports, after having rescued migrants in the Mediterranean.
The final straw that broke the camel’s back was not migration, but the approval in parliament to continue with the construction of the high-speed train between Lyon and Turin, the so-called Treno Alta Velocità (TAV).
The multibillion-euro project involves a tunnel through the Alps, a huge investment in which the EU would participate financially for 40 percent.
However, the Five Star Movement strongly opposed the TAV, for being too expensive and therefore limiting other investments in Italy’s economy. They promised that with them in government the TAV project would be stopped.
However, this week the TAV was approved with an alternative majority during the last session of the parliament before the start of the recess.
Prime minister Conte realised that his government could not continue this way and proposed to Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella to form a “government of experts”.
Polls put Salvini ahead
As Salvini believes in “permanent campaigning”, he already started this week with a tour on Italy’s beaches, where he would talk to people in his swimming trunks.
On these beaches he not only gave speeches, but took the time for people wanting to take selfies with the bare-chested politician. He also played music as a DJ on beach parties.
It is unlikely that it were these beach gatherings alone that convinced the deputy prime minister to call for snap elections.
Matteo Salvini has been conducting an unofficial summer-long election campaign on Italy’s beaches
On the same day prime minister Conte made the suggestion of a government of experts, an opinion poll of Ipsos came out.
According to this poll, the League would get 36 percent of the votes, double what the Five Star Movement would get. The Democratic Party (PD) would reach around 20 percent.
Due to the Italian electoral system where the largest party receives a bonus in parliamentary seats, League would only need a small party like the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) in order to have a majority in parliament.
It is clear that this opinion poll gave Salvini enough confidence to play the game hard and call for early elections.
There is one issue however that might play against early elections. The League said it wanted a European commissioner with an important portfolio in the next Commission.
If the League pulls out of the coalition and heads for elections in autumn, that dream will most likely fall into pieces.