This is a potentially dangerous move by the Italian establishment here. Italy can have any election result it likes but it cannot actually change policy concerning the European Union. That’s the right – to my mind – way to read what they’ve done here and it’s a dangerous thing to be doing. Because it’s always possible, no not necessary but possible, that the electorate keep on insisting upon their desires and eventually breach those establishment rules about what is possible as a course of action.
Roughly enough, the Northern League and the 5 State Movement won the recent general election in Italy. The result was such that a coalition was going to have to happen, this being true of near all election results in that country. The President approves not only the PM but also the Cabinet. That’s the test the new proposed government failed:
The reason for the collapse of the budding populist government in Rome is that Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, and Luigi Di Maio, the head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, had proposed Paolo Savona, an 81-year old Eurosceptic economist, as finance minister.
Mr Mattarella, who has the power to approve or block cabinet appointments, considered Mr Savona a threat to Italy’s position in the eurozone, at a time when Italian debt was already taking a big hit in the markets.
“The uncertainty over our position in the euro alarmed Italian and foreign investors who invested in shares and companies,” Mr Mattarella said. “The rise in the [bond] spread increases the debt and reduces the opportunity to spend on social measures. It burns companies’ resources and savings and foreshadows risks for families and Italian citizens.”
It’s not just actually leaving the euro that said establishment won’t allow. It’s that they’ll not even allow a eurosceptic to become finance minister. And this is the way to be reading it too:
The Five Star and League alliance fell at the final hurdle, after Mr Mattarella blocked their proposal to nominate Paolo Savona, a Eurosceptic economist, to be finance minister, in a dramatic stand-off on Sunday night.
His decision was hailed by France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who proclaimed his support for what he described as Mr Mattarella’s “courage” and “great spirit of responsibility” carrying out his “essential task, that [protecting] of his country’s institutional and democratic stability”.
But the short-term relief of other European governments at the prevention of a populist government in Rome was tempered by concerns that Mr Mattarella’s decision could embolden anti-establishment parties in Italy and elsewhere.
It’s entirely clear what has been done here. You can vote however you want but we’ll not, we establishment, put up with too much euroscepticism in actual government.
You can read what is the best policy for Italy concerning the euro and the EU however you like. I think that Italy, after some chaos, would be vastly better off out of both. But then I insist that the euro is the worst economic idea to hit the continent since scientific socialism and I think the EU itself to be a bad idea. You can, hey it’s a free country, believe the opposite, that both are essential to the future well being of everyone from Tromso to Valetta. It’s still a bad idea to be defending it like this though.
It now looks like another election for Italy, with an EU approved technocratic government installed by Mattarella in the meanwhile. This time the EU is expected to pour in hundreds of millions in black publicity to swing the result away from the populist parties – but in the slim chance that Italian voters dig their heels in against the Germans, Mattarella has more shots in his locker to enable the EU to keep kicking the Italian can down the road for as long as possible.
For there’s always the danger that the electorate isn’t simply being a tad misguided. Or fickle, swayed by some transient whim. Maybe they do actually think that this supranational government idea is a truly bad one. Like we did when asked in a referendum. Which means that using little procedural tricks to keep them on the straight and narrow until they regain their senses isn’t going to work. For they’re just going to come back again and again with ever increasing vehemence to their demands.
I don’t say that this is true of Italy on this specific point. I only say that it could be. And when the institutional and establishment dam breaks, when that moat is crossed, there’s going to be a great deal more upheaval than there would have been if desires had been acceeded to earlier.
That the Italian establishment is insisting you cannot have a government against the EU and the euro might indeed work. But it might also just raise the ire of the demos, the people doing the actual voting, mightn’t it?