The Collapse of the Conte Coalition Government in Rome is Tripoli’s Worst Nightmare – Al Marsad

The shocking announcement made by the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy that his party’s coalition with the Five Star movement has collapsed represents a huge setback for the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli as the current right wing government in Rome, led by Giuseppe Conte, is Tripoli’s sole backer in the European Union. The Italian Deputy Prime Minister, himself, is a very close friend of Ahmed Maitiq, the Vice President of the Presidential Council of Tripoli.

[Libya, 9 August 2019] – Matteo Salvini announced the collapse of the coalition government on Thursday evening from Rome, calling for early legislative elections as soon as possible.

The right wing Italian Deputy Prime Minister said he had informed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that the Northern League’s alliance with the Five Star movement had collapsed. “Let’s go immediately to parliament and verify that there is no longer a majority, and quickly return the word to voters,” said Salvini.

“There is awareness and recognition that, after many good things that were done, the Northern League and the Five Star Movement for too long have had visions that are different on the fundamental issues for the country, such as major public works, infrastructure, economic development, the fiscal shock, the application of regional autonomy, justice reform and relations with Europe,” the Northern League said in a statement on Wednesday.

Salvini and Sarraj (Archive)

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the ruling Northern League party, said on Thursday that the incumbent Italian coalition government had broken down. The only available alternative now was to hold new elections. Salvini’s statement comes in the wake of months of bickering between his Northern League party and its coalition partner, the Five Star movement. However, the Salvini party did not demand the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the first European ally of the President of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj. Prime Minister Conte took part in Thursday’s talks in a bid to keep the Italian government from collapsing.

At a rally of supporters on Wednesday evening, Salvini said the government had done a good job for 10 to 11 months, but things have changed in the last two to three months, and something has broken down.

Ahmed Maitiq has a very strong relationship too with Salvini and this news must have caused him concern. This is unusual given that Salvini is a right wing populist and a vehement anti-migration politician. Maitiq became a frequent flyer to Rome since the Northern League, led by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, formed its coalition government. The first Italian personality Maitiq is always keen to meet, on his frequent visits to the Italian capital, is Salvini, before he meets with any other senior Italian official.

The last meeting was on 4 July with Salvini, who is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most powerful interior ministers. Salvini, however, because of his extremist political policies, is described as the architect of the tragedies faced by illegal migrants in Libya. His intransigence on forcefully sending migrants back to Libya where they end up in the infamous detention centres, in and around Tripoli, as well as his refusal to receive those arriving on Italy’s shores and keep them off the Italian waters for weeks until another country agree to receive them, are some of the more problematic results of his right wing policies.

GNA’s Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, with Salvini.

The Italian news agency ANSA said the party had not threatened to withdraw its ministers from the current government. Italian media also reported that Salvini and the leader of the five-star movement, Luigi Di Mayo, visited the Prime Minister’s residence late on Thursday, where Conte held an hour-long meeting with the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella earlier in the day.

The current coalition government is in turmoil after the ruling majority split dramatically on Wednesday in votes in parliament on the controversial TAV Turin-Lyon high-speed rail-link project. The Five Star Movement Party raised the current crisis by voting in favour of blocking billions of Euros worth of allocations for a high-speed rail-link between France and Italy. The proposal was rejected because the ruling majority persuaded the Northern League lawmakers to keep it. Before the vote on the railway project on Wednesday, Salvini warned that it would endanger the unity of the government and would trigger a call for new elections.

Conti and Sarraj in Tripoli (Archive)

“Every day that passes is a day that is lost. As far as we are concerned, the only alternative to this government is giving the word back to the Italian people with new elections,” said a statement by the Northern League.

Ahmed Maitiq and Enzo Moavero Milanesi (Archive)

On the Libyan context, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi is also allied with the GNA’s Fayez al-Sarraj and his Foreign Minister, Mohamed Siala. Milanese called on the government to state what it plans to do in the forthcoming future, with the new political dynamic that has risen and that undoubtedly requires the two ruling parties to have a clear vision about their next steps.

The call for new elections is not the decision of Salvini, but the decision of Italian President Sergio Mattarella. If the current government collapses, the president could authorize another party leader to see if they could win a parliamentary majority and form a new government.

In any case, however, the Government of National Accord (GNA) has a long wait—if the developments on the ground in Tripoli do not change—to see the emergence of a new Italian political map. The strategies and policies of both the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (AISE—External Information and Security Agency), as well as the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Interna (AISI—Internal Information and Security Agency), towards handling the Libyan dossier, particularly the immigration file, and the immigration MOU signed with Sarraj in this respect, are not yet clear.

Demonstration in the Piazza del Parlamento in Rome Against the Muslim Brotherhood

On Wednesday, at the time when the coalition government was under turmoil, a number of Italians demonstrated in support of Libya and Egypt and their fight against terrorism and jihadists under the slogan “Stop the agreements with the fundamentalists of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Italians protesting against the government’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Marsad received photos of the demonstration in the streets of the Italian capital Rome and which ended in front of the Italian Parliament at the Piazza del Parlamento. The protesters raised banners of solidarity and support for Egypt in its fight against terrorism and other slogans condemning the Muslim Brotherhood and affirming the right of Libyans to live free from radical movements.

Italians protesting against the government’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A number of protesters held placards calling on the Italian parliament to change Rome’s policy towards the Presidential Council headed by Fayez al-Sarraj for its support of Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the demonstrators held a placard reading: “No to war, No to the Brotherhood, No to Jihadists, No to al-Sarraj, Freedom for the Libyan people.”

“No to war, No to the Brotherhood, No to Jihadists, No to al-Sarraj, Freedom for the Libyan people.”

The protesters carried a poster that referred to Rome’s ongoing support of the GNA: “Conte: Do Not Sell Italy to the Muslim Brotherhood”, criticizing the policies of the Italian government towards governments allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly the Tripoli government, accusing the group of financing terrorism.

In a demonstration against extremism, Souad Sbai, former Italian politician and member of Italian Parliament, said that the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli is a bridge for the Muslim Brotherhood to cross into Italy. “Our parliament and government should stop dealing with this fundamentalist government,” said Souad Sbai, who posted a series of tweets following the protest.

The Italian Government has been repeatedly threatened by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Some leading GNA members had warned that hundreds of thousands of migrants would have departed from the Libyan coast for Italy if the Conte government ceased to support the Muslim Brotherhood’s government in Tripoli. “They threatened Italy with weapons of illegal migration and the terrorism of ISIS. Why does the Conte government continues to support al-Sarraj? Does he fear the threats of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood?” argued Sbai.

In one of her tweets, Sbai called upon her government to support the Libyan House of Representatives. “The Libyan parliament asks our government to change its policy. It is not in Italy’s interest to continue to support the so-called Government of National Accord led by al-Sarraj and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In another tweet, Sbai called upon her government to support the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR). She wrote: “The Libyan parliament asks our government to change its policy. It is not in Italy’s interest to continue to support the so-called Government of National Accord led by al-Sarraj and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Former Politician Souad Sbai’s Comments on Italy, Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood

In an interview with local media platforms and a number of TV and radio stations that covered the protest in Rome, Sbai said in remarks, translated here by Al Marsad, that she is exerting pressure on the Italian government to change its policy towards the Libyan crisis.

Souad Sbai being interviewed at the protest by Italian media.

She warned that Qatar is financing the spread of the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West and its not hiding it. “What the European and American governments are waiting for to take action?” she asks.

She urged Italy to change its policy towards what she called “the government of the Muslim Brotherhood”, which was holding Tripoli and the whole country hostage. Denouncing Rome’s support to the GNA, she said, “No to the policy of blackmail practiced by Sarraj and the Qatari-Turkish sponsored militias, of our country.” She urged Rome to stop dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood and stand with Egypt in its fight against the Brotherhood-backed terrorism of Qatar and Turkey.

The Italian member of the Parliament warned that the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to destabilize Egypt with terrorism by targeting tourism and the economy, in order to launch a new Arab Spring and overthrow the current government in Cairo, and establish a fundamentalist dictatorship. Abandoning Cairo in the face of the threat of terrorism contributes to the spread of the radical agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We will ask the parliament to pressure the government to adopt a major change in its policies regarding the Libyan crisis,” said Sbai, who is of Moroccan origin and currently also heads the Moroccan Women’s Association in Italy. “In fact, it is not in Italy’s interest to continue to support the so-called Government of National Accord headed by Fayez al-Sarraj. It reflects the policy Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” said Sbai.

She pointed out again that the GNA had repeatedly sent threat signals to Rome, and that Sarraj, himself, had hinted on several occasions that hundreds of thousands of migrants would sail from the Libyan coast towards Italy if the Giuseppe Conte government were to stop its support for his government, referring to his statement that “Haftar’s war on Tripoli will open the door for these migrants and that Italy must support the GNA for this reason.” “Furthermore,” she continued, “the Vice President of the Presidential Council, Ahmed Maitiq, spoke about the arrival in Italy of thousands of ISIS terrorists currently detained in Libyan prisons.”

“Does Italy fear the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood’s threats? Is the fear of terrorist attacks the reason why Italy continues to turn a blind eye to the promotion of fundamentalism that the Brotherhood has deployed within its territory?” Souad Sbai asked: “I would like to refer the mosques, cultural associations, Imams and Muslim Brotherhood’s militants that carry out proselytizing and radicalization activities in Italy thanks to funding received from Qatar, as documented in the book (Qatar Papers).”

She said that despite the failure of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood continues to destabilize North Africa through terrorism: “From Egypt to Libya and Italy, the distance is short.”

She concluded by saying: “The Government of National Accord in Tripoli is the Brotherhood’s bridge to Italian territory. Therefore, during the protest, we intend to pressure the Italian parliament and the government to reject any compromises with fundamentalism, both domestically and internationally.”

© Al Marsad English. 2019.