Italy’s populist government called a vote of confidence in parliament, as proposals to curb immigration and corruption fueled tensions between the coalition’s allies.
Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini of the anti-migration League is pushing for restrictions on the rights of asylum-seekers, while several senators of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement are against the measures.
The vote of confidence in the Senate which was expected on Wednesday in Rome, aimed to strong-arm Five Star dissenters as they face expulsion from the party if they vote against the government. Five Star and the League hold a majority in both houses, although in the 320-seat Senate the two groups only have 14 more votes than the opposition. The center-right Forza Italia party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said it won’t take part in the vote. The small far-right Brothers of Italy said it would back the government.
As Italy wages a financial struggle with the European Union over its 2019 budget, Salvini and fellow-deputy premier Luigi Di Maio of Five Star are clashing repeatedly over a series of issues from spending priorities to fighting corruption, highlighting their parties’ contrasting natures.
The League is based in the rich north of Italy and has long campaigned to restrict immigration. The web-based Five Star Movement is strongest in the poor south and has proclaimed the fight against political corruption a priority. Five Star and the League are also at loggerheads in the lower house of parliament over Five Star’s demand in an anti-corruption bill to scrap time limits on how long people can be prosecuted after an initial trial. Salvini has said the government must “avoid trials that last forever, also for the innocent, which would be a defeat for everyone.”
Attempts to resolve the latest tussle have been stalled by the absence of both Salvini, on a visit to Ghana, and Di Maio on a visit to China. Salvini’s hand is strengthened in the contest by opinion polls which show the League has leapfrogged its partner since March general elections. The League is backed by 30.4 percent of voters while Five Star is supported by 28.2 percent, according to an SWG survey. This compares with the League’s 17.4 percent and Five Star’s 32.7 percent in March.