Nobody Agrees With Prime Minister Conte

With no short-term definite solution to this pandemic, regional and national politicians argue about who's doing better. An already-present attitude that has now worsened with the rising number of deaths.

Prime Minister Conte at a table with other politicians during the pandemic..
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte meets Italian mayors. All credits reserved to the Italian Government and shared under CC 3.0.

When Italy declared the first lockdown in March 2020, videos had already gone viral of Italian mayors strongly complaining on social media of citizens not following anti-Covid-19 regulations. These videos, even if quite humorous — due to the informal tone and glimpses of words from local dialects — demonstrate that the local administrations were (and are) suffering from this pandemic.

A political tension is frequently obvious in these videos like the one by Campania’s Regional President Vincenzo De Luca, who took the opportunity this summer to counterattack former Interior Minister and currently Secretary to the right-wing League, Matteo Salvini. The latter had criticized the region’s pandemic health management and President De Luca struck back in a video. A criticism De Luca is currently receiving, although he declares that the media is conspiring against the region he represents, publishing claims by politicians who “accomplished nothing during this pandemic.”

Now, Salvini cannot always be considered reliable in what he says as demonstrated by his inability to decide if he recently supported a second lockdown or not, changing his mind within the same day. But President De Luca, who had acquired quite the supportive audience during the lockdown, lost it a few months later. It could be that he had crossed a fine line between expressing an opinion and expressing an unnecessary statement when he said — referring to the slogan promoted by Lombardy — “Milan will not stop, but then they stopped counting [the number of deaths due to COVID-19].” This statement was received negatively.

Italy is very well known for its conflicted politics. The regional elections in September for Tuscany, the Marche, Campania, Apulia, Veneto, Liguria and the Aosta Valley, also saw some changes within the political world. Quite a few new regional leaders belonged to the opposition.

Credit: Corriere della Sera. This map shows regions colored based on the governing political coalition. Red (center-left), blue (center-right), green (League), and grey (autonomous).

Regardless of whether right and left-winged, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has received a lot of criticism from the political sphere. Quite interestingly, we published an article about the work carried out by Conte, and how well it had been initially received among the citizens, but it is not the case anymore. The main two topics that increase this negative reputation are Conte’s decision not to proceed with the European Stability Mechanism and his recent anti-COVID19 strategies.

The percentage of favor among the citizens decreased with an increase in discontent among the mayors who state that Conte is mandating responsibilities to them, such as making sure that the curfew is respected in their cities. However, when the latest updated norms were published by the government, this note regarding mayors was erased.

Erased was also the now-unavailable report written by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Italian Headquarters in Venice on the world’s pandemic management. According to the facts circulating from the media, and those who were able to download this 100-page report that was then deleted from the WHO’s main website, this report criticized Italy for not applying updated norms to fight the pandemic. Italy’s former Health Minister and now WHO’s Assistant Director-General Ranieri Guerra was thus interrogated about Italy’s health management.

Other unclear circumstances include Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza who had planned to publish his book on the pandemic in September. The date had then been moved to the end of October but, when inquired, bookstore employees seem unaware why. An inside interview showed an employee of a bookstore claiming, “It is a political move.”

So what exactly is happening?

Politicians such as Matteo Salvini have quite frequently criticized Italy’s Prime Minister for being — according to statements — unable to handle the current pandemic. However, as the mayors’ videos show, the air is filled with mutual criticism rendering the decision-making process probably harder, and politicians criticizing each other seem only to be able to do this.

Politicians worried about their image, forgetting a piece of history where Italy was unified, with a finger-pointing attitude. This is not an easy situation and solutions are key to moving forward and politicians should stop worrying about their politics and focus on accepting solutions that work, even when they dislike it the most since this is what mature, reasonable politicians should be doing, especially considering that lives are at stake here, not politics. COVID-19 is a persistent problem and, as Donald Trump showed us, childish arguments bring us nowhere.

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