Future of Italian government in question after major cabinet row

FILE PHOTO- Matteo Salvini, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the far-right League Party, speaks as he launches campaigning for the European elections, in Milan, Italy April 8, 2019. REUTERS-Alessandro Garofalo-File Photo

Tensions between Italy’s ruling parties have climaxed in an overnight cabinet meeting, triggering talk of a looming crisis for their populist coalition government.

The far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) have been squabbling for months, but frictions have increased in the run-up to May’s European Parliament elections.

The latest row played out in a cabinet meeting that ran into the night, in which the League effectively vetoed a financial aid package for Rome, which has an M5S-affiliated mayor.

On Wednesday, the Il Messaggero and Corriere della Sera dailies ran front-page headlines that spoke of a “war’’ or “fight’’ over the so-called “Save-Rome’’ measure.

La Stampa, another newspaper, said the government was “tottering.’’

After the cabinet meeting, M5S sources said debt-relief measures for Rome had only been “half adopted,’’ and pledged to extend them again during parliamentary discussions.

League leader Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy premier and interior minister, had argued that Rome should not get any preferential treatment compared to other debt-laden Italian municipalities.

His M5S counterpart Luigi Di Maio, deputy premier and industry minister, first boycotted Tuesday’s cabinet to do a TV interview, then joined it to engage in the dispute with Salvini.

From the opposition, former premier Matteo Renzi of the centre-left Democratic Party wrote on Facebook that the ruling coalition is paralysed by “total conflict on every issue.’’

Prior to this week, the League and the M5S have rowed over abortion rights, migration policy, a League politician accused of corruption, plans to build a high-speed rail tunnel across the Alps and other issues.

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