Italy: Betraying the People

Italy: Betraying the People
The Italian President betrayed his people by going against democracy and rejecting the Finance Minister that the victorious populist coalition nominated last week, thus sparking a constitutional crisis and bringing Italy to the brink of new elections that will likely be a referendum on the euro.

The left-leaning Five Star Movement and its right-wing counterpart Lega altogether won over half of the vote during the most recent elections in March, and despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, these former anti-establishment rivals joined forces to nominate Giuseppe Conte as Italy's newest Prime Minister.

However, Conte's choice of Paolo Savona as Finance Minister — who's on record criticizing the euro and saying that Italy should have a "Plan B" in case the common currency fails — was rejected by President Sergio Mattarella, prompting the designated Prime Minister to step down and Mattarella to instead choose former IMF official Carlo Cottarelli as the interim Prime Minister. The President's intervention in denying the country's elected populist majority the right to form the government prompted calls for impeachment and instantly threw Italy into yet another political crisis, one which might end up being the EU's worst since Brexit.

Lega leader Matteo Salvini quipped that "Today Italy is not free; it is occupied financially by Germans, French and eurocrats" in channeling the popular sentiment that the bloc's leaders pressured Mattarella to do away with the people's choice for their Finance Minister out of fear that he'd pull Italy out of the euro. Lo and behold, this might become a self-fulfilling prophecy after the President's anti-democratic and perhaps even anti-constitutional intervention sparked nationwide outrage and puts the country on the path of possibly having early elections that many analysts are predicting would be a referendum on the euro.

Italy is the third-largest economy in the Eurozone behind Germany and France, and it's also the largest European country where populists swept to power, so what happens in this Mediterranean state is bound to have continental implications that could very easily become global. A victory for the eurocrats would reinforce the German-led system, while the populists could put the bloc on the path of far-reaching reform if they come out on top in this political struggle, potentially affecting everything from the Migrant Crisis to Trump's trade war and even relations with Russia.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Anna Lutskova De Bacci, Milan-based founder & CEO of MareLucci and correspondent at Eurasia Future, and Marco Bonifacio Di Marzo, co-founder of Veritas, a human right association operating in Italy.

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