After weeks of shifting alliances and political jockeying, Italy is close to minting a new governing coalition: a union of two sworn political enemies aligned in their aim to thwart the far right’s rise to power.
The leaders of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the mainstream center-left Democratic Party said that they had reached a deal to form a government, with one goal: to block the rise of Matteo Salvini, the populist interior minister who brought down the government in the hope of triggering a snap election in which his League party would likely place first.
The two parties agreed on Giuseppe Conte, a law professor, as prime minister. For 14 months, Conte acted like a puppet. Last week, he resigned, accusing Salvini of endangering the country.
Now Conte is back. Under the new coalition, Conte would be prime minister. But the government he represents would be significantly recast — probably being less interested in anti-migrant rhetoric and more willing to cooperate with the European establishment.
The president Sergio Mattarella is expected Thursday morning to give a formal mandate to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to work toward the formation of the coalition.
The deal still faces several hurdles, including negotiations over the cabinet. Five Star, as is its custom, will put the deal to an online vote of party insiders.
In Italy’s last national elections in 2018, it produced the first populist government in the heart of Europe. Now that’s given way to the first coalition government in the heart of Europe between a mainstream party and a populist party.
“This is a weak, messy, fragile solution — with a very weak democratic legitimacy,” said Giovanni Orsina, a professor of history at LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. “These are parties that for a year now have been losing [regional and local] elections.”
Former ruling coalition collapsed last week after months of infighting.