Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has banned a migrant-rescue ship from entering the country’s waters as he seeks to use migration to add pressure to coalition talks that would push him from government.
Salvini, leader of the right-wing League Party, has cracked down on illegal immigration to Italy and repeatedly banned migrant ships from docking in the country.
The League leader’s political career hangs in the balance, however, after he last month called an end to the coalition between his party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement that has ruled Italy for just over a year.
Salvini was angling for new elections, which he would likely win due to the popularity of his policies of tax cuts and opposition to immigration.
Yet bitter rivals Five Star and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) agreed to put aside their differences to try to form a coalition, sidelining Salvini.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella last week asked Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to head up a Five Star-PD coalition and begin to choose new ministers.
The news that a Salvini government might be avoided sent Italian borrowing costs to record lows and the stock market soaring. The League leader’s spending plans are likely to lead to a clash with the EU and a loss of market confidence.
Salvini has kept the pressure on the two parties, however, using the issue of immigration. He said at the weekend that Five Star and the PD would end his ban on migrant boats docking in Italy.
He said today: “If the PD wants to reopen the doors and allow the business of illegal immigration to start up again, it should tell that to Italians.”
Negotiations between Five Star and the PD are ongoing and could yet break down. Five Star’s leader Luigi Di Maio made some tough demands on Friday that cast doubt over the coalition’s viability.
One of Di Maio’s demands was the acceptance of a law cracking down on the rescue of migrant ships.
Should the talks break down, President Mattarella would most likely dissolve parliament and call new elections.