Author`s name Giovanni Giacalone

Italy’s democracy is set aside as Intelligence and pro-lockdown doctors jump in

The Italian government and his PM, Giuseppe Conte, are in serious trouble as his already weak coalition fell apart last week after former PM Matteo Renzi pulled his Italia Viva party out.

Conte managed to pass a confidence vote in Italy's lower house of parliament but failed to secure a majority in the Senate, the upper house, after Italia Viva's opposition to Conte's plans for spending more than €200 billion of EU recovery fund cash.

Additionally, Renzi had asked Conte to give up his intelligence portfolio, something that the PM was carefully trying to avoid and in part he did, by appointing his diplomatic advisor, Pietro Benassi.

Despite his resignation, Conte is desperately looking for potential partners ("constructionists" according to pro-government members and "traitors" according to the opposition) to include in a new coalition with the objective of taking power once again, side to side with his remaining allies, the left-wing Democratic Party (PD) and the 5-Star Movement (M5S).

During such operation, controversies had emerged as Italian newspaper La Stampa claimed how Conte used top Intelligence officials to get in touch with Parliament members potentially willing to join his coalition, something that would be against the law, against the function that the Intelligence agencies have and, indeed, against decency.

The Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Republic (a body of the Italian Parliament deputed to monitor the activities of the Italian intelligence agencies) immediately requested explanations, and the claim made by La Stampa was denied by the Italian government.

If Conte fails to form a new coalition, with sufficient numbers to provide stability, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, could ask another candidate to try and form a new coalition or, eventually, he would have to call for new elections. This second option, is however strongly opposed by PD and M5S who keep calling for a third Conte government.

It makes sense, since the right-wing parties Fratelli d'Italia and Lega are strongly ahead in polls and with 14 Italian regions currently ruled by the right-wing, while only 5 by the left-wing government coalition.

Logically, the wiser choice would be a call for election in order to respect the democratic mechanisms. However, PD and M5S claim that this would be a disaster because "it's not possible to vote while in a pandemic"; an excuse that has already been rejected, since elections in 2021 will be held in Portugal, Holland, Bulgaria, and Albania.

It is interesting to notice how the anti-election line has been widely supported in the Italian media by Dr. Massimo Galli, infective disease department director at Milan's "Sacco" hospital.

Sure enough, Galli has been constantly repeating in front of the cameras that the electoral option would heavily increase the number of Covid infections. Funny enough, Galli has also claimed to "always have been a left-winger".

Galli had already complained about the September elections, which saw a major right-wing victory, claiming that they caused 88 thousand additional infections.

This obviously raises a question: is it suitable and appropriate for a doctor, whose only concern should be health, to influence the choices of a democratic system? Perhaps, for Galli it would be preferable to suspend democracy? It might be the case of recalling that the Italian Constitution's article one indicates how "sovereignty belongs to the people".

As if it wasn't enough, on January 29th, a secret report produced by the Italian Intelligence and forwarded to the outgoing Conte government, claimed that the number of Covid-infected individuals in Italy are underestimated by approximately 40-50%, due to the lower number of tests that were taken after mid-November.

This report is so "secret" that it was immediately published by online newspapers such as Repubblica and Il Giornale. The timing is particularly interesting as it does not only emerge as the Conte government is in an extremely serious crisis, and about to leave office, but also while many Italian regions are about to change "color"; a measure that would reduce some restrictions and would give breath to the many businesses that are in an extremely dramatic situation.

This "secret report" released by the Italian Intelligence and rapidly published by the media obviously doesn't help those who wish to head towards a democratic vote and neither all these people who are hoping to see restrictions eased in order to work.

Democracy appears to be suspended, while others take the decisions, and voters and workers are placed aside, "for their own good" indeed. Unfortunately (for the State apparatus) many are beginning to be extremely skeptical.

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