In Rome this past Sunday, August 7th, the leader of the centrist Action (Azione) party, Carlo Calenda, pulled out of an election pact with the center-Left Democratic Party (PD), ANSA reports. The upset is expected to bolster the opposing Right alliance, whose chances to emerge victorious after the September 25th elections were already substantial.
Calenda explained he felt compelled to withdraw because of the PD’s teaming up with two, considered radical, leftwing parties—the Italian Left (SI) and Green Europe (EV)—as well as Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio’s new Civic Commitment (IC) party. The former two had voted against letting Finland and Sweden join NATO so as not to incur Russia’s displeasure.
During the vote of confidence for now-outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi—about two weeks before—all three parties had submitted 54 no-confidence votes in total; a state of affairs Calenda, who had been deeply committed to Draghi’s agenda, could no longer suffer. Calling it “one of the most painful decisions,” he said that he “did not intend to continue with this alliance” because of these “out of tune elements.”
During an interview on Rai News, he said that because of the Democratic Party’s choice [to involve these parties] “this coalition was made to lose,” and that he “cannot go where my conscience doesn’t take me.”
His party, which had been the most sought after as well as hardest to convince, signed the pact for the center-Left alliance only a week ago. In the highly fractured world of Italian politics, such coalitions are indispensable levers for getting the keys to power.
Predictably, PD leader and former premier Enrico Letta immediately came out in condemnation. “The only possible ally for Calenda is Calenda,” he said, while accusing him of “damning the country to the Right.”
While the “damning” part might be debatable, the reality is that Giorgia Meloni—a prime candidate for the future premiership—and her Brothers of Italy-led coalition are indeed set to win next month’s vote. According to an August 1st poll, which registers voters’ intentions, Fratelli D’Italia (FdI) alone would garner 24.2% of the vote. The PD, its closest rival, comes just short of matching it, thus far remaining at 23.7%.
Yet FdI’s ally, Matteo Salvini’s the League (Lega) has 12%, and its third ally, Silvio Berlusconi’s center-Right Forward Italy (Forza Italia) party, 7.5%. Together, the coalition boasts about 45%, plenty to secure a victory. More recent polls estimate it even higher, at about 46.4%. It would be the first time since 2008 that Italian conservatives achieve a victory in such a declarative fashion.
On Monday, Meloni reaffirmed her right to be her coalition’s premiership candidate; the leader of the party that gets the most votes traditionally is granted premiership. The latter remains the prerogative of President Sergio Mattarella however.
In that outcome, Meloni would become Italy’s first female prime minister.
Her confidence buoyed now by the Left’s rupturing, Meloni mockingly referred to Sunday’s happenings as a “new twist in the soap opera.”
Meanwhile, those parties on the Left are in a quandary, as prospects are growing dimmer. The leader of the PD, Enrico Letta, had begun with high hopes. Seeking to widen the center-Left’s appeal to voters, he sought an alliance with former premier Giuseppe Conte’s populist 5-Star Movement (M5S). It was all for naught, however, when Conte made his move in trying to get rid of Draghi, culminating in a vote of no-confidence for Draghi, who could not salvage his government.
The question now is whether Calenda’s Azione party will remain in no man’s land or join forces elsewhere. Some speculate that he may team up with that other centrist leader, former PD leader and ex-premier Matteo Renzi, whose Italia Viva (IV) party had been set to run alone after being shunned by the center Left. Calenda’s erstwhile allies, More Europe (+Europe), are expected to stick by the PD’s side.
Upon hearing the news of Calenda’s bolting, its leader, former foreign minister and European commissioner Emma Bonino curtly said that “it doesn’t make sense to change your mind every three days.”
Yet implementing change is now more necessary than ever for those vying with Meloni and hers; they have one month and a half to do so.