Von der Leyen vote may trigger snap elections in Italy

Italian vice president and interior minister Matteo Salvini talks to journalists in Rome, Italy, 15 July 2019. [Maurizio Brambatti/EPA/EFE]

Italy’s two ruling parties clashed on Wednesday (18 July) over the election of German Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission in a vote that could endanger Rome’s hopes of securing a top job in the new EU executive.

The governing parties, Matteo Salvini’s Lega and Luigi di Maio’s Five Star Movement (M5S), were both expected to back von der Leyen at the European Parliament vote.

However, the Lega voted against.

Italy still has time to dissolve parliament and hold elections after the summer break, Salvini told Il Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily.

In an interview published on Thursday, Salvini said it was up to the 5-Star Movement to decide if Rome’s populist government would survive, based on their cooperation on a plan to increase regional autonomy, next year’s budget and a reform of the judicial system.

Emanuele Bonini, a blogger who closely follows Italian EU affairs, wrote on Wednesday that the coalition could hardly survive the clash over the new Commission president vote.

“The Lega’s vote against the president-elect of the European Commission is now producing a political earthquake in Italy,” Bonini wrote.

At the EU summit when decisions on top jobs were taken, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte officially supported von der Leyen, Bonini recalled. In doing so, Conte took a political commitment with the other European leaders, “but the Lega betrayed him”.

Conte himself immediately accused Salvini’s MEPs of “institutional disrespect” and accused the Lega of having voted “against the national interest”.

Moreover, Italy is likely to be punished because of the Lega’s behaviour, by being assigned a second-class portfolio for its future Commissioner, Bonini wrote.

it could be very difficult for the future Italian Commissioner to pass the hearings in a hostile parliament, he quoted Fabio Massimo Castaldo, vice-president of the European Parliament and prominent M5S politician, as saying.

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