Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Italian party Lega Nord, has called for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Salvini’s hope is to force a collapse of the current government and trigger early elections. U.S. News reports that party leaders met on Monday, August 12th to set a timeline for the vote, though they were unsuccessful. The entire Senate then met on Tuesday in an attempt to pick a date for the vote. Salvini will have to wait a little longer for a decision. Al Jazeera reports that the Senate will wait for Conte to address the issue when he returns to Parliament next week.
Salvini’s desire for a no-confidence vote has been met with opposition from other parties in parliament who are especially apprehensive of his timing. In September, the government is set to begin working on the 2020 budget. Reuters reports that former leader of the Democratic Party and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called Salvini’s attempt to get voters to return to the polls at this time “crazy.”
Currently, Italy is governed by a coalition led by Salvini and Deputy Prime Minster Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement. Lega, originally known as the Northern League for the Independence of Padania, was formed in 1989. In its earlier years the party was known for its harsh prejudice against Southern Italians, according to background research by Bloomberg. The party’s central platform now focuses on curbing immigration, strengthening nationalism, and implementing a more efficient government.
This move by Salvini not only signals his desire to capitalize on his rising popularity, but also to cut ties with the 5-Star Movement. The two parties joined after elections in May 2018, according to NBC News. Lega recently released a statement saying that “we have to acknowledge that, after having accomplished many good things, for too long now the League and the 5-Star Movement have disagreed on fundamental issues.”
Already, the call for a snap election has had a negative impact in Italy. According to Al Jazeera, investors started selling off Italian stocks and bonds on Friday, just a day after Salvini’s announcement. Although Italy has one of the largest economies, the country is currently facing a massive sovereign debt crisis, second in the Eurozone behind Greece. Additional reporting by The Atlantic notes that Italy also has the lowest growth forecast of European Union countries this year.
Economic troubles are not the only concerns associated with Salvini’s potential rise to power. According to The Atlantic, one of Salvini’s large themes is protecting Italy against what he has referred to as an “invasion of undocumented immigrants.” NBC News also reports that Salvini has pledged to deport half a million people and has already barred entry to ships carrying refugees. The negative effects of Salvini’s anti-immigration rhetoric can already be seen. Al Jazeera recently reported that the Spanish humanitarian ship Open Arms, currently holding 121 migrants, has been stranded in the Mediterranean sea for over a week. Although the ship is off the coast of one of Italy’s southern islands, the New York Post reports that the vessel faces a one million dollar fine if it attempts to enter Italian waters.
Italy is not the first European country to see the emergence of far-right politics. Political parties with similar anti-immigration and nationalist sentiments have grown across Europe in countries like France, Germany, and Sweden. At a time when so many of the world’s communities are in need of help, more and more countries are turning their backs. If Salvini’s vote of no-confidence is successful, his party will have an opportunity to form a new coalition. This could lead to a potential partnership between the League and far-right party the Brothers of Italy which, according to The Guardian, would create a fully far-right government in a major Western country. The rhetoric these parties currently espouse could prove detrimental moving forward. It is important to combat these ideologies to prevent desperate migrants, like those on board Open Arms, from being stranded and ignored.
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