Yesterday the Conte Administration received a vote of confidence from both houses of the Italian Parliament and with a comfortable majority to boot, despite the usual sour grapes from Italy’s Establishment.
To make sure the public takes notice of the change in substance of this Italian government, the hope is Conte and Partners will work to achieve and enforce party discipline a concept alien to the Italian Constitution and Parliamentary rules and practice. In a Country where the Constitution officially holds the people’s representatives unaccountable by virtue of Article 67 of the Italian Constitution discipline is long overdue. Another hope is that Ministers should talk by their actions, not with their mouths: The only ones authorized to speak in public and address the press on policy issues should be Conte, Di Maio and/or Salvini. This would be a welcome break from past governments that saw Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament holding press conferences, releasing interviews to journalists and participating on TV talk shows on an almost daily basis.
In a Country where “form” is often “substance” the behavior and demeanor of MPs is of the utmost importance. Presence especially that of government MPs should be the rule and strictly enforced by economic sanctions: no show, no pay. The Conte Administration has a bare bones majority in Parliament and will have to be very careful not to loose it (above all in a system where more governments were forced to step down after waking up one morning to discover the majority they had the day before had vanished over night). Enforcing party loyalty in order to avoid “ambushes” somewhere down the line in the House or Senate, especially by Populist MPs is crucial to the government’s survival. Only the two Romano Prodi governments fell by a vote of no confidence as prescribed by the Italian Constitution and since Unity only two other governments are known to have been voted out of office by votes of no confidence. Evidently MPs are shy when it comes to tendering a vote of no confidence. Why? Well because tendering a vote of no confidence carries an element of risk regardless of the form. Better therefore to hide behind the anonymity of a secret ballot and shoot down a government perhaps on an insignificant bill catching everyone by surprise by withholding the necessary votes required to maintain its majority, thereby forcing the government to resign for lack of the majority needed to remain in power. “Ambushes” are much more Italian and preferable to an open showdown in the Parliament. Too risky a business given the money and perks at stake. After all, politics beats working, right guys?