Frog Kissing and Revolving Door Politics

Is this the best there is?

The British have a saying. ‘You have to kiss a lot of frogs.’ The inference is of course that that frog-kissing is a precursor to finding a prince.

I’m afraid Italy may be close to settling for a frog — anything rather than this interminable indecision and dithering.

As Italy says farewell to a revolving door prime minister, whose time in post can be counted in hours and was a political novice, what next?

We have an interim prime minister, a Eurozone test during new autumn elections and a big wobble on the Italian markets (uncertainty can do that — and let’s face it — the one thing that’s certain about Italian governance in 2018 is uncertainty).

The country’s populist parties are falling out with everyone.

The president, Sergio Mattarella used his power to nominate the head of government and ministers, choosing Carlo Cottarelli, a former International Monetary Fund official, as interim PM. The move came after he refused to entertain the notion of Paolo Savona, a Eurosceptic, as finance minister and the in-post PM walked away.

He said the 81-year-old Savona, who views Italy’s entry into the euro as a “historic mistake”, would have undermined foreign investors’ confidence further.

Savona had been put forward for the role by would be government double act Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League. The nomination’s rejection on Sunday night saw their choice of PM — Giuseppe Conte — make a hasty exit. One wonders how much Conte’s resignation related to Mattarella’s veto on the choice for finance minister and how much it rests with plain common sense. The beginning wasn’t auspicious, things weren’t getting any better and the role of PM is not one that lends itself to ‘learning on the job’.

Predictably both parties’ leaders were outraged by Mattarella’s decision to overrule their finance minister choice.

Next obvious step — in the theatre of school playground politics — was zipping over the horizon within minutes. Both called for a mass mobilisation against the president on 2 June — and impeachment was, at one point, mentioned. And of course, what could be better for a dangerously unstable country than adding that to the mix?

Mobilising the people to do anything has to be an interesting watch. Most are angry with the main vote holders that they still can’t form a government. That’s literally the first thing they have to do, and it is still gracing the ‘to-do’ list.

Mattarella’s intervention got a warmer reception from fellow Euro leaders, with both France and Germany praising him for his responsible approach and institutional and democratic stability.

Did Mattarella make the right moves, or will he have fanned the fires of populist sentiment further?

Mattarella felt Italy would have sent the wrong message by appointing an anti-euro finance minister — and at the moment, Italy is still an important member of the European Union.

Both 5Star and League leaders, Di Maio and Salvini, have been consistently critical of Eurozone affiliation.

So here we are. We’re two weeks on from 5Star and the League reaching an agreement and setting out their agenda for a populist government and very many weeks on from the March elections.

Serious politicians’ stock-in-trade is leadership, direction, strategy, stability, collaboration, results focus and clarity of vision. Seasoned politicians serve their time. They learn through working at municipal level, then move onto the back benches, then into ministerial posts or their shadow counterparts.

In short they are professionals who know what they are doing, where they are going and, most importantly, how to get things done: no frogs.