Italia-Viva boss Matteo Renzi believes that in the midst of the pandemic, he must also bring a government crisis to Italy. So he gambled himself away.
Which devil is Matteo Renzi riding? The former prime minister and today’s head of the small party Italia Viva believes that in the middle of the pandemic, of all things, in the middle of the deep economic and social crisis it triggered, he would have to give Italy a government crisis.
Italy doesn’t need this crisis. Under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the government has done a decent job overall in the face of the corona pandemic, it reacted decisively both in the first wave in March and in the second wave from October onwards, not least in Brussels when it launched the big one European “Next Generation EU” package reached, from whose funds 209 billion euros will flow to Italy.
Certainly, like other governments in Europe, it could have done a lot more in the summer to better prepare the country for the second wave, had it had to take tougher measures earlier in the autumn – but it was and is Renzis Italia again and again Viva, who resisted further restrictions in school, business and private life.
Fighting the pandemic cannot be the sole purpose of a government, Renzi said at his press conference, at which he announced the break of the coalition on Wednesday evening. But then he got down to business – better to the person who really bothers him: Giuseppe Conte. Unlike the unpopular Renzi, the head of government enjoys great popularity, and he was allowed to be painted by his adversary as a “populist”, even a little dictator who “inflicted wounds on democracy”, who “with one decree after another” rule.
Conte has to go – that is Renzi’s real message. After the break of the coalition between the five stars and the right-wing populist Lega (also under Conte), he himself was at the cradle of the second Conte government with its five-star coalition, the moderate left Partito Democratico (PD) and the small radical left list Liberi e Uguali (LeU) confessed.
Buying time for your own small party
At the time, Renzi probably only wanted to buy time to split the PD, to which he still belonged at the time, and to be able to found his own party Italia Viva, without having quick new elections with a victory for Lega boss Matteo Salvini thwarting his plans did.
Italia Viva (“Living Italy”) came along too, but it quickly turned out to be stillborn, which is around 3 percent in opinion polls. Renzi had to bury the dream of becoming the Italian Macron. Even worse, the PD and the five stars did not work smoothly during the pandemic, but overall they worked together quite well – and Renzi was on the sidelines, had hardly anything to report, and worse: was hardly noticed in public.
At least that he could change with the government crisis that he set off. But neither Italy nor its party will take this step, or better: this act of desperation will be of much use. For the time being, Renzi only managed to get the other three coalition partners to rally behind Conte more united than ever, to brand Renzi’s actions as “extremely serious”, as “directed against the country”. And he can look forward to the applause of the right-wing opposition, which, under the leadership of the Lega, is now smelling the morning air of faster new elections.
But he did not solve his problem: His Italia Viva will remain marginal with any solution – re-launch of the coalition, Contes continuing to govern without Renzi and instead with the confidence of newly recruited center-members, an all-party emergency government or new elections. Only 13 percent of Italians believe that Renzi is acting in the interests of the country; 73 percent see him as being driven by personal interests. And new elections in particular would mean the political death of his party.
Renzi is considered to be a player who likes to play poker high. But this time he could have gambled himself away, just like the other Matteo, Salvini from the Lega in the government crisis of August 2019. Unlike Salvini, who heads a party that is 30 percent good, Renzi could, however, with his 3 percent Party on a suicide mission to which he himself fell victim first.