The man who wants to save Conte

SFor decades, Clemente Mastella has always been there when you need him in Italian politics. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte currently needs all the support he needs to survive the government crisis in Rome. And Clemente Mastella, now 73 years old and mayor of Benevento near Naples since 2016, is happy to be there for him. Mastella does not currently have a seat in parliament herself, but his wife Sandra Lonardo has been a senator since 2018.

Matthias Rüb

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta, based in Rome.

And in the smaller parliamentary chamber, where the ailing Prime Minister asked the vote of confidence on Tuesday, the majority situation for Conte is even more uncertain than in the House of Representatives since the left-wing liberal small party Italia Viva of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi withdrew from the coalition last Wednesday.

Mastella is the epitome of the “voltagabbana”, the “coat changer”, as they are used to call political defectors in Italy. He has belonged to nearly a dozen different parties or political alliances, some of which he founded himself.

“How Italy’s politicians became untouchable”

In the bestseller “La Casta” (The Caste), published in 2007, two journalists from the newspaper “Corriere della Sera” described “how Italy’s politicians became untouchable” (the subtitle of the book). Mastella plays a leading role in it. Mastella began his career after studying philosophy as a journalist at the public broadcaster Rai, where he was directed in a senior position by party friends of the Democrazia Cristiana (DC). In 1976 he made the leap into the Chamber of Deputies for the DC.

He stayed there until 2006, then in the Senate for two more years. After the dissolution of the DC in 1994, Mastella belonged to various successor parties to the Christian Democrats, now right and now left of the political center. In the first cabinet of the Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Mastella was Labor Minister from 1994 to 1995.

From 2006 to 2008, Mastella was then, after a few more party political skins, Minister of Justice in the cabinet of the Social Democrat Romano Prodi. The feat of belonging to the governments of the two political archenemies of Italian politics of the past decades could only be accomplished by Mastella. In addition to his duties in parliament and government, Mastella found time to serve several times as mayor of his home town of Ceppaloni in Campania and to defend himself against all kinds of charges in court on allegations of corruption and ties to the Mafia.

An alliance called “Better Us”

In the European Parliament from 2009 to 2014 Mastella was remembered as one of the most reliable truants. He found that the daily rates and allowances granted in Strasbourg were pathetic compared to what he was used to as a parliamentarian in Rome. Mastella currently only commands one regional party in Campania. But he literally knows everyone in political Rome.

He is a regular in the capital, and likes to accompany his wife – a senator without party affiliation – to the session weeks. Mastella has offered his support to the counted Prime Minister Conte: In order to replace the missing votes of Renzis Italia Viva in the Chamber of Deputies and especially in the Senate, he could forge an informal alliance from the group of non-attached elected representatives in both houses of parliament, which would create a new cabinet Conte guarantee safe majorities. Mastella has already come up with a name for the alliance: “Meglio noi” (Better us).

So far, the experienced majority procurer Mastella has apparently only made slow progress in forging alliances for Conte – and thus also for himself. Usually such negotiations are conducted over the phone or in some other confidential manner, in back rooms in parliament or in coffee bars not far from Palazzo Montecitorio and Palazzo Madama, where the House of Representatives and the Senate are located. Several candidates, whom Mastella had approached under the seal of secrecy, made the unambiguous offers public – and turned them down.

Conte waves it away

Regardless of these setbacks, Mastella continued to be confident on Monday, especially as there were enough votes for Conte in the Senate – in any case, Conte can rely on Mastella’s wife Sandra Lonardo. The most likely scenario is that Conte will get the required simple majority of 149 votes in Tuesday’s vote of confidence.

Because the 18 senators from Italia Viva will abstain, according to Renzi, if Conte asks the vote of confidence in the smaller chamber. This reduces the threshold of votes required for a simple majority to 149. According to media reports, Conte is still at least four votes short of an absolute majority of 161 of the total of 320 votes in the Senate, which is required for relevant legislative proposals. Mastella wants to remain helpful in Rome, although he receives signals from Prime Minister Conte that they do not want his support. Conversely, Mastella seems to need help himself: He wants to apply for a second term in Benevento this year, but has not yet been able to forge an electoral alliance.


Italy: Government crisis could stifle recovery

Rome, Brussels If there is one thing Italy cannot afford at the moment, it is a crippling power vacuum: a nine percent economic slump, national debt rises to one and a half times economic output, companies are unproductive, health and education systems are underfinanced. But Italy’s ex-prime minister Matteo Renzi has now pushed his country into this power vacuum when he left the ruling coalition with his small party Italia Viva.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tries to avoid new elections, speaks to possible new supporters who could secure him a majority in the Italian parliament. Renzi and his two ministers terminated the alliance with the Social Democrats and the Five Star Movement on Wednesday evening because they could not agree on the amount and use of the European aid money, which Italy’s economy urgently needs. The payment of the same aid could now be delayed considerably.

There is now also a big question mark behind the next national Corona aid package for companies particularly affected by the pandemic. The companies that were already hard hit would suffer. The companies had hoped for a quick upswing after the sharp slump last year. That could now be strangled by political squabbles. Even the specter of new elections is already haunted, which could bring the country a broad right-wing majority – with the League of ex-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini as leader.

“The clock is ticking for Italy,” says Markus Ferber, economic policy spokesman for the EPP group in the European Parliament. The later Rome submits a satisfactory development plan to Brussels, the longer it will take for the funds to arrive in Italy – “those responsible in the Italian government should be aware of this”.

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There is great concern in the EU about the break in the coalition. “Especially in the pandemic it is important that Italy has a government capable of acting,” says the CSU politician.

Debts grow by 22 million euros – per hour

The political crisis hits Italy in an economically extremely fragile phase. The country has still not recovered from the euro crisis in more than ten years. According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Italy’s economic strength will not have reached the pre-crisis level of 2008 even in 2025.

The national debt has stubbornly stuck to around 135 percent of economic output in recent years. None of the governments has managed to get down from the huge mountain of debt, which is now over 2.5 trillion euros.


Then came the pandemic. Debt grows and grows – currently by 22 million euros per hour. As a result of the corona crisis, it will rise to more than 160 percent of gross domestic product, the IMF estimates. Italy would soon be playing in a league with countries like Eritrea and Lebanon. In Europe only the Greeks exceed this debt level.


The eighth largest economy in the world was hit particularly hard by Corona. More than 80,000 people have died from or with the virus. In relation to the number of inhabitants, only Belgium has an even higher death rate worldwide. The military vehicles that transported coffins en masse through Lombardy in the spring are etched into the country’s memory forever.

The lockdown that Premier Conte imposed for more than two months in March was one of the toughest in Europe – including a production freeze for most companies. The manufacturing industry has recovered to some extent and is optimistic about the coming months.

Tourism, which normally contributes a good 14 percent to the gross domestic product with its suppliers, almost came to a standstill last year. The industry association Federturismo is assuming a decline in sales of 80 percent compared to the previous year for hotels alone.

Due to the political quarrels, the payment of what is now the fifth Corona aid package for industries particularly suffering from the pandemic could be delayed. The government wants to adopt a supplementary budget for this, around 24 billion more than previously are planned, including for the procurement of further vaccines. However, experts assume that a resigned government would no longer be able to propose such a large sum to parliament.

The great hope rests on further vaccines

Italy’s economy contracted sharply last year. The latest estimates assume a minus of almost nine percent. For this year, the economists from the statistical institute Istat expect a plus of four percent. However, the unemployment rate is also expected to rise, from 9.4 to eleven percent.

One of the reasons for this: In April, the cancellation ban imposed by the government at the beginning of the pandemic expires. After all, private consumption makes optimistic: While the Italians initially put their money aside during the crisis and drove the savings rate of private households to 19 percent at times, they have been spending more again since September. The stricter corona regulations in winter mainly affect retailers again.


The corona vaccinations started at least give hope that the pandemic will end soon. Italy wants all its citizens to be immunized by autumn. This calculation will only work if the vaccine candidates from Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson are also approved in the summer. There are many uncertainties, to which the political one is now added.

“The current economic situation in Italy is characterized by the pandemic and uncertainty about the future”, says Jörg Buck, head of the German-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Milan. “What our companies need now is a strategy for the reconstruction plan and its implementation so that Italy and its European partners, especially Germany, can return to growth.”

Italy urgently needs the money from Brussels to tackle decades-old problems: the health system is just as underfunded as education. Business productivity is far too low. The administration works too inefficiently and too analog. Italy ranks at the bottom of the Digital Economy and Society Index, only ahead of Romania, Greece and Bulgaria. Digital signatures are hardly possible, there is a lot of paperwork at the offices.

The judiciary works too slowly, and many processes simply become statute-barred. At the same time, youth unemployment is almost 30 percent.

Renzi flashed a glimmer of hope

“Without national plans, which reforms are to be financed with 200 billion EU funds in Italy, and appropriate controls, no money can flow,” warns Andreas Schieder, head of the Austrian Social Democrats delegation in the European Parliament.

It is worrying for the entire Union if a country like Italy cannot benefit from the gigantic aid program – “and so falls behind in the reconstruction”. The inadequate productivity rates could not be remedied by European monetary and fiscal policy alone, warns the FDP MEP Moritz Körner.

Renzi let through at least one glimmer of hope, despite all the dissent: As soon as the government’s reconstruction plan is voted on, his party Italia Viva would vote in favor. It will soon become clear whether Prime Minister Conte can really still trust his old partner: the use of EU aid will be debated in parliament on Monday.

Italy has proven over decades that it has always been able to spend EU money despite regular government crises, says MEP Körner. But even if Parliament were to wave through the spending list, there is fear in Italy that Brussels will not be able to pay off in the middle of a vacuum.

More: Italy must avoid new elections at all costs – one comment


Italy’s Prime Minister Conte must avoid new elections

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte

If the non-party Conte wants to prevent new elections, he must quickly find new supporters in parliament. Italia Viva provides 25 of the 630 parliamentarians in the lower house and 18 of the 315 senators.

(Photo: Reuters)

Rom Matteo Renzi has to endure a lot of malice on Twitter. Under the hashtag #Renzivergogna (in German: Renzi Schande), the 46-year-old is shown either as a riot in the US Capitol or as a baby with building blocks – which are not from Lego, but from “L’ego” – Italian for “the ego “.

The former prime minister has dominated Italian politics for weeks: with threats, ultimatums and personal attacks on his successor Giuseppe Conte. It is still a mystery what the leader of the dwarf party Italia Viva actually wants. What is clear is only what he does not want: to continue to support the current government. On Wednesday evening, Renzi dropped his political bomb – and withdrew his two ministers from the cabinet after the dispute over EU aid. In the middle of the health crisis, which has already caused almost 80,000 corona deaths, Renzi is now giving the country a political one.

The current situation is difficult to convey to the Italian people. According to a survey by the polling institute Ipsos, 46 percent of citizens do not understand the government crisis. 73 percent of those surveyed believe that Renzi is only pursuing his personal interests – or those of his party. Just 13 percent think that the ex-prime minister is acting in the interests of the country.

The senator from Florence was right in his criticism of the content: Italy’s first draft for the EU reconstruction fund was not very ambitious, included too many old projects, and had no clear focus on investments. The new version that the cabinet decided after Renzi’s Christmas threats is definitely the better one. Renzi could have booked that as a success. But he bit into the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the billions of which he wanted to tap for the health system. It was clear from the start that the co-governing five-star movement would not move away from its no to the ESM.

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Right block at 46 percent

Prime Minister Conte now has to find a new majority in both chambers of parliament. Even if there are MPs there who do not belong to any parliamentary group, some opposition politicians are likely to be needed for an “alliance of those responsible”. Alternatively, there is already speculation about a non-partisan government of experts, which President Sergio Mattarella could convene.

If none of these scenarios work, the country would face new elections. The opposition is already scratching its feet. According to a survey on Monday, which the TV broadcaster “La7” commissioned, the right-wing populist Lega around former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini would be the strongest force in parliament with 23 percent. Even the right-wing national Fratelli d’Italia would get 17 percent more votes than the five-star rating. In addition, there would be around six percent of Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia. With a total of 46 percent, the way is not far to a right-wing majority.

That would not be good news for Europe and the world. Under Conte, the country has shown itself to be a reliable partner. The non-party lawyer appeared as a persistent negotiator vis-à-vis Brussels, especially in the dispute over the Corona development fund. Nevertheless, he was always pro-European, emphasizing several times that Europe owed the historic opportunity to be able to redesign the country with the many billions.

In the right-wing bloc, on the other hand, there are EU skeptics like Salvini, who has already proclaimed the “Italexit” based on the British model and railed against migrants, plus a party leader in Fratelli leader Giorgia Meloni who has never officially distanced herself from fascism. The ray of hope in this trio would then actually be an 84-year-old political warrior whose party demands more political competencies for Europe and works with the CDU in the EU Parliament: Silvio Berlusconi.

More: Matteo Renzi’s party withdraws from the government. Why the center-left coalition broke up.


Dispute over broadcasting in Saxony-Anhalt: crisis postponed

In Saxony-Anhalt, the SPD, the Greens and the CDU are in a tough struggle to prevent the end of the coalition. But that’s only been postponed for a week for now.

He wants to renegotiate the broadcasting contract – but Reiner Haseloff does not say how that should work Photo: image

BERLIN taz | The Kenya coalition in Magdeburg has two days of permanent crisis behind it. On Tuesday there were two coalition committees in one day, agreements that lasted less than two hours, nightly rounds of negotiations and exasperated MPs. The Green MP Olaf Meister tweeted on Tuesday evening at half past ten: “Coffee is gone, snacks too. The hall is unheated. “

On Wednesday morning, the CDU, SPD and Greens finally reached an agreement. But not in the matter: There are still worlds between the CDU, which rigorously says no to the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty and the increase in fees by 86 cents, and the SPD and the Greens, who say yes. In the meeting marathon, the Kenya coalition only agreed to give itself one more week. Next Wednesday, December 9th, the CDU, SPD and Greens will have to come to an agreement in the media committee – or not.

This is a small success for the SPD and the Greens. Because the CDU parliamentary group had insisted on Tuesday afternoon to fix the no to the state treaty on Wednesday. Katja Pähle, SPD parliamentary group leader, says: “That makes it possible to keep talking to each other”

Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff definitely wants to avoid the worst-case scenario: a joint no from the CDU and AfD in the state parliament in mid-December. That is why he had made the proposal not to vote on the state treaty and renegotiate it because of the corona pandemic.

“No plan” for a solution

How Haseloff intends to persuade the other federal states to enter into new negotiations at short notice is unclear. Because there the will to untie the state treaty is almost zero. The 15 other federal states have already waved through the state treaty – if Saxony-Anhalt simply does not vote, the treaty will lapse and will not come into force on January 1, 2021. Then the broadcasters will likely go to court.

In Magdeburg, the same three proposals are on the table for the next few days. The SPD wants to combine the yes to the treaty with a motion for a resolution that takes up the Union’s criticism of the broadcasters – too expensive. But the Union faction has already rejected that. The Greens proposed the compromise of signing the State Treaty, but not allowing the increase of 86 cents to take effect until July and renegotiating it until then. The SPD doubts whether this would be legally possible. The CDU parliamentary group does not want to vote on the state treaty and thus effectively bury it.

That is not the will of the people. According to a dimap survey commissioned by the MDR, 54 percent in Saxony-Anhalt are in favor of the increase in broadcasting fees and only 44 against it. The opinion of CDU supporters is also clear: 58 percent are in favor, 40 against. Only among AfD supporters is the overwhelming majority against the increase in radio license fees.

So far there is “no plan” how to come to an agreement, says SPD parliamentary group leader Pähle to the taz. And assured: “We don’t want to take the escalation to extremes and continue to explore all possibilities for an agreement. If there were quick new elections, that would be a high risk for everyone involved. ”The parties would now have time to examine all proposals. But no one currently knows what a face-saving way out for everyone could look like.


Government exposes itself to lawsuits for pressuring airlines | News from El Salvador

The lawyer Luis Parada considers “unconstitutional” and “unreasonable” the action of the Salvadoran Government to prevent, through the airlines, that Salvadorans return to the country

Luis Parada speaks with the moral authority of a successful lawyer in Washington DC and has even won international litigation for the State of El Salvador, such as that of the mining companies. But also with that of a Salvadoran immigrant who does not renounce his country.

With indignation, he does not hesitate to describe as “unconstitutional” and “unreasonable” the government’s behavior in disobeying the Constitutional Chamber, which ordered him not to prevent the return of Salvadorans who did not bring proof of the covid. And as a legal professional, he warns that the government risks being sued for pressuring the airlines to demand it.

Confusion and discomfort in the midst of contempt for demanding the COVID-19 test to enter El Salvador, this was the first day of opening at the Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez Airport.

These are his impressions in an interview with El Diario de Hoy …

What do you think of the measures that the government has taken despite an order from the Constitutional Chamber that they were without effect?

For me, each government has the responsibility to seek legal and reasonable measures to protect the health of the population, but legal and reasonable measures. The Government of El Salvador took an extraordinary measure of closing the airport for several months and that has been done by some countries, but not by most; It is quite a drastic measure and in all that time they could have thought about when it would open to be able to do things well. But what he did Government of El Salvador is something completely illegal and unreasonable; that of saying that whoever does not take it will not be allowed to enter the country is obviously unconstitutional.

Government commits contempt by demanding the COVID-19 test to enter El Salvador

Why is it unconstitutional?

A reading of article 5 of the Constitution is enough to know that they cannot be prohibited from entering the national territory, and that was what the Constitutional Chamber told the government to the extent of the government: that it could not do so and that no provision of the government prohibiting Salvadorans from entering the national territory would not be valid or constitutional.

Luis Parada, Salvadoran lawyer based in the United States.

How do you see the role of airlines?

President Bukele himself, as if wanting to sound like he was smarter, said, “Hey, you know what? You do not have jurisdiction outside of El Salvador, so the airline is going to request it there and you cannot do anything ”, but the airlines are requesting it for an instruction, for an order from officials of the Government of El Salvador, who are under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Chamber. This is a crude and ineffective device because if an official cannot do something directly, neither can he order others to do it for him.

Legally what configures this procedure?

Requiring the document at the port of shipment is a way of wanting to turn around the order of the Constitutional Chamber, which is legal and mandatory. This procedure is a gross fraud and is a violation that is invalid and it brings criminal responsibilities even for the officials involved, and through the tweet that the President of the Republic put, he is endorsing this subterfuge. So it is not only the Director of Migration or the manager of CEPA who are not complying, but also the President of the Republic.

Constitutional Chamber annuls the government’s ban on demanding COVID testing from Salvadorans

As a member of the Diaspora, what do you feel?

It offends all Salvadorans who bought their tickets, arrived at the airport and did not board them, because in addition to this dysfunctional and illegal provision, there are changes, first yes, then no, then yes again.

Is it normal for doctors to deliver evidence stamped and signed in the United States?

Another arbitrariness: that not only the printing of the test was enough, but they wanted a doctor’s signature when they don’t do that here. My own daughter took the exam and they just sent her an email with access to the test result and well she had access and saw it and can print it, but they are not going to seal it, because what they are preventing the person unnecessarily goes to the doctor.

We recommend: The Government contradicts itself and goes against the Court’s ruling by demanding proof of COVID-19 from Salvadorans and foreigners who enter the country

What effects do you see in the future from these procedures?

In addition to being unconstitutional, illegal, irrational, and disobeying an order of strict compliance such as the order of the Constitutional Chamber, it is also arbitrary, changing. There is great legal instability, improvisation, not even that young high school students could expect this level of improvisation and acting, which is pitiful and sad, but as they are the government causes contempt. This creates a climate of legal instability. Who is going to want to invest in El Salvador like this?

Do you think lawsuits may come?

In addition to the legal aspects of these arbitrariness that are going to arise in El Salvador, they are violating international obligations that the current government thinks are a game or that do not exist, they are threatening that they can suspend the permission to land for airlines that do not comply, that In addition to being illegal and unconstitutional, it also violates the free trade agreement.

If an airline’s permission to operate in the country is canceled, that already constitutes a violation of international commitments with Free Trade, in CAFTA in Chapter 10 of Investments, the airlines invest and if they are canceled in El Salvador that could lead to a lawsuit against the Salvadoran State for the unjust, illegal arbitrary actions of the president in violation of international treaties and that entails the responsibility of the State.

They are playing and they are sinking more and more and are playing now with legal responsibility, both within El Salvador and abroad, with international treaties.


Hirte is the new chairman of the Thuringian CDU

Christian Hirte, a member of the Bundestag from West Thuringia, is the new chairman of the Thuringian CDU. He was elected at a party congress on Saturday in Erfurt with around 68 percent of the delegate’s votes. There was no opponent. The previous head of the National Association of Christian Democrats, Mike Mohring, did not run again.

Shepherd had called on the party to unity in his application speech. A signal must be sent that “the CDU is pulling together again”. At the same time, shepherd distinguished himself from the AfD and the left. The CDU has nothing to do with the AfD from right wing winger Björn Höcke, who pursues a nationalist-racist policy, said Hirte. And the left, for which not Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow, but the more radical state chairman Susanne Hennig-Wellsow stands, wants a system change in contrast to the CDU. Hirte said further that in order not to be rubbed again between the left and AfD, the CDU must make its design claim more clearly than before.