Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government is on the verge of collapse after one of the parties in his coalition, the 5Star Movement, boycotted a critical vote Thursday in the Senate.
The move could lead to early elections and a period of instability at a time when the country is facing drought, inflation and a resurgent pandemic.
The vote, over a bill earmarking €26 billion to mitigate the rising cost of living, became symbolically important after Draghi declared it a vote of confidence in his coalition.
So while the Italian parliament passed the measure comfortably on Thursday, the 5Stars’ refusal to participate — ostensibly over environmental concerns related to a new garbage incinerator in Rome — effectively signaled the end of its support for Draghi’s coalition government.
Following the vote, Draghi went to the presidential palace to discuss his position with President Sergio Mattarella.
The boycott was the culmination of mounting friction between Draghi and the 5Star Movement in recent days.
With its poll ratings at around half 2018 levels, the 5Star party has been demanding concessions from Draghi, maneuvering to gain visibility and reassert its identity ahead of elections next year. One 5Star faction has argued for an exit from Draghi’s government, in the hope that it could help recover votes.
However 5Star leader Giuseppe Conte made it clear on Wednesday that the movement did not yet want to leave the governing coalition.
“We are available for dialogue and to make a contribution to government,” he said.
In one possible scenario, Mattarella could now send Draghi back to parliament to verify his majority with a confidence vote. 5Stars could then confirm their support, even after boycotting the cost-of-living bill.
If the 5Star Movement does withdraw from the government, Draghi has insisted he will not continue as prime minister. Meanwhile, right-wing parties, the League and Fratelli d’Italia, are using the fissures to call for early elections. Italy has never had elections in the autumn because of the need to prepare the budget law.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, from the centrist Italia Viva party, said the 5Stars could not have it both ways — remaining absent from the vote while remaining in government. The 5Stars “have exceeded the limit of decency and honor”, he told the Senate.