Umbria elections and Conte accusations shake government

Nicola Zingaretti, Giuseppe Conte and Luigi Di Maio. Photo credit: Il Giornale

 ROME – The future of the Italian government has been thrown into doubt as the result of the regional elections in Umbria shakes the coalition and the prime minister is under fire for an alleged conflict of interest.

 Political sources say that the Five Star Movement is losing confidence in leader Luigi Di Maio, after the party’s alliance with the Democratic Party in the Umbria elections resulted in a spectacular loss to the centre-right.

 Many of his party are criticising Di Maio’s leadership, or lack of it.  Il Fatto Quotidiano quotes internal party sources as having said that the party no longer had inspiring policies to offer.

 Five Star parliament members are considering replacing Di Maio, or at least altering the party constitution to allow the leadership to be contested, reports La Stampa.

 Di Maio has confirmed that there will be no further alliances with the Democratic Party in the coming regional elections in Emilia Romagna and Calabria.

 Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is also internally divided, as opinions differ on whether to keep working with the Five Star Movement after the catastrophe of Umbria, which is traditionally a left-wing area and Democratic Party heartland.

 Andrea Orlando, the party’s vice-secretary, said in an interview with La Stampa that elections would be preferable to constant ultimatums.

 Meanwhile, party leader Nicola Zingaretti has said that he does not want elections, but the government had to “change path, argue less and do more,” reported Il Fatto Quotidiano.

 The leader of this struggling coalition, prime minister Giuseppe Conte, has his own problems to deal with.  Having only recently had to testify to Copasir (the Italian parliamentary body which oversees the activities of the secret services) about why he allowed Italian secret service leaders to talk to the US attorney general, he is now facing questions about a conflict of interest that further undermines his credibility.

 A report by the Financial Times revealed that Conte, prior to taking political office, gave a legal opinion on a business deal that subsequently turned out to involve the Vatican Secretariat, itself currently being investigated by Vatican authorities for an alleged misuse of funds. 

 Conte’s legal recommendation was to place the company in question under the “golden power” rules.  Next month, a Conte-led government did exactly that.

 Although Conte has denied any wrongdoing in this case, which has previously been discussed in Rome, he has had to issue further statements to defend himself.

 If the government collapsed, President Sergio Mattarella would take the country straight to a vote, rather than overseeing negotiations for a coalition as he did in August, reported La Repubblica.

 Despite a meeting Tuesday between coalition partners to renew the agreement, the government is not looking stable. 

 All this, of course, plays right into the hands of Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, who has announced that he will start campaigning for the Emilia Romagna elections with a rally in Bologna next month, challenging the current president of the region, the Democratic Party’s Stefano Bonaccini.