ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Draghi met Monday with Italy’s president to discuss the future of his government amid simmering tensions with coalition member the 5-Star Movement.
Five-Star lawmakers abstained from a vote in the lower Chamber of Deputies on Monday, signaling a lack of support for Draghi’s government. Draghi’s national unity coalition, formed with the aim of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, is made up of a broad base of parties, including ones from the left, the right and the populist 5-Stars.
Ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose center-right Forza Italia party is part of the governing coalition, called on Draghi to verify if he still can lead the country after the 5-Star abstention, prompting the premier to go to the Quirinale Palace to huddle with President Sergio Mattarella.
The 5-Star leadership has been complaining for weeks about government priorities, demanding more generous financial relief for families and businesses slammed by high energy costs and continued funding of a guaranteed monthly salary for those unable to find work.
The 5-Stars, which began as a grassroots protest movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, reached the height of popularity in 2018 when they became the biggest party in Parliament, a victory based in large part on the guaranteed salary pledge.
But the movement has lost support in the ensuing years, and expulsions and defections have whittled their ranks in Parliament, most recently when Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio split off with 60 lawmakers to form a new movement.
Ex-Premier Giuseppe Conte, the current 5-Star leader, had vowed as recently as last week that he would remain in Draghi’s government for now. But after the abstentions Monday, lawmakers openly questioned whether Draghi could continue on without full 5-Star support.
In addition, the center-right has done well in recent local elections and generally polls well, suggesting they would be interested in having an early election called.