Although it appeared as if leaders of the Five Star Movement and League were about to strike a deal in recent weeks, Italy remains without functioning government. One of the major sticking points preventing a coalition between these parties has to do with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
Following the March 4th election, the two major players in the Italian Parliament are the populist Five Star Movement and the anti-migrant League. Although the Five Star Movement won its highest percentage in the recent election (32 percent), it wasn’t enough to effectively govern without forming a coalition. The League won a surprising 17.69 percent of the vote – an incredible 13.59 percent jump from the previous election.
Soon after the election, the Five Star Movement’s head Luigi Di Maio and the League’s leader Matteo Salvini cooperated in electing new speakers into the Italian Parliament. This significant move signaled that the two parties were on the same page and serious about collaboration.
On March 28th, however, Di Maio said he would not form a coalition with the League unless he could be at the top of the new Italian government. Di Maio also said he would not take part in any government that included members of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. The Forza Italia party won 13.94 percent of the vote, which was a drop in 7.66 percent from the last Italian election.
An agreement to work with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia would go against the Five Star Movement’s anti-establishment principles. For supporters of the Five Star Movement, there’s no greater symbol of the corruption of modern Italian politics than the scandal-ridden Berlusconi.
While the Five Star Movement could potentially form coalitions with smaller parties on both the left and right, the League will have an impossible time forming such a government. Left-wing parties are firmly against the League’s anti-immigration policies.
Interestingly, there’s now talk that the Five Star Movement could be working to form an alliance with the left-leaning Democratic Party, once the majority party in Italian Parliament. The Democratic Party had a miserable showing in the March election with only 18.9 percent of the vote – a 6.5 percent drop from the last election cycle.
The League has strong ties to Berlusconi and Forza Italia’s political dominance in northern Italy. In recent interviews with the press, Berlusconi counseled the League not to give up its principles just to satisfy the new Five Star Movement. Berlusconi then likened the Five Star Movement to a “hircocervus,” or a mythical animal that has the body of both a goat and a stag. Commentators believe Berlusconi used this term to describe the Five Star Movement’s self-contradictory economic & social plans.
While it seems a deal is far away at the moment, new polls show Italians who voted for the Five Star Movement or the League favor a coalition between the two parties. Salvini has also said in recent interviews he would consider supporting the Five Star Movement’s proposal for basic income.