Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has pulled the plug on the country’s ruling center-left coalition.
Renzi, now a senator, has withdrawn his 48 lawmakers and three ministers (one junior) from the coalition ostensibly over a spending dispute. He wants to use Italy’s €200+ billion share of the European Union’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund to invest in infrastructure and the green economy. The other ruling parties prefer to use the bulk of the money for short-term stimulus.
Renzi has also proposed to tap into the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), set up in the wake of the euro crisis, to help pay for Italy’s increased health-care spending, something Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resisted. ESM funding would come with strings attached. Countries are free to spend their share of the coronavirus recovery fund however they see fit.
Renzi’s proposals have merit. Italy is failing its next generation. It needs structural reforms — which ESM support would require — to catch up with the rest of Europe. Spending €200 billion to prop up the Italian economy in the short term is a wasted opportunity.
But expecting the other ruling parties to meet his terms, when Renzi’s is by far the smallest of the three, is unreasonable. Throwing Italy into a political crisis when it is still suffering one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus disease in the world is irresponsible.
Italy’s center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, has stepped down after his Democratic Party fell from first to fourth place in the election on Sunday.
I argued here in January that Renzi had two challenges: uniting the left and convincing voters he could still deliver reforms.
He failed at both. He watered down labor reforms in an attempt to appease the left wing of his party, but they walked out anyway. He didn’t secure a supermajority for constitutional reforms, necessitating a referendum to which he then foolishly tied his own political career.
Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, launched his candidacy for reelection this week by presenting himself as the alternative to nationalist leaders in his own country as well as America and France.
“Some people wanted a party congress to find an alternative to Renzi-ism. It needs to be done as an alternative to Trumpism, Le Penism and even Grilloism,” the former prime minister said, referring to the new president of the United States, the leader of France’s National Front and the founder of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Read more “Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War”
After Brexit, the Dutch “no” to the European Union’s association agreement with Ukraine and the election of Donald Trump, Italy’s constitutional referendum in December is being portrayed as the next battle in the war between populists and the powers that be.
There is something to this. The Italian referendum campaign pits a center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, who is very much in line with the European consensus against an assortment of insurgents, from the populist Five Star Movement on the left to the anti-immigrant Northern League on the right and some of Renzi’s nemeses in the ruling Democratic Party in between for good measure.