Italy's 5-Star calls online vote amid "identity crisis"

By Steve Scherer ROME (Reuters) - Italy's ruling 5-Star Movement has called an online vote to decide whether or not to block a possible kidnapping trial against Matteo Salvini, their coalition ally and leader of the hard-right League party. The vote will be held on Monday from 0900 GMT to 1800 GMT, 5-Star said on its blog on Sunday. The result will dictate how the movement's senators will vote on Tuesday in a committee that could block the Sicilian probe

Reuters February 18, 2019 01:05:39 IST
Italy's 5-Star calls online vote amid "identity crisis"

Italys 5Star calls online vote amid quotidentity crisisquot

By Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's ruling 5-Star Movement has called an online vote to decide whether or not to block a possible kidnapping trial against Matteo Salvini, their coalition ally and leader of the hard-right League party.

The vote will be held on Monday from 0900 GMT to 1800 GMT, 5-Star said on its blog on Sunday. The result will dictate how the movement's senators will vote on Tuesday in a committee that could block the Sicilian probe.

Prosecutors in Catania, Sicily, want to continue an investigation for alleged abuse of power and kidnapping that began when Salvini ordered some 150 migrants be held onboard an Italian coast guard ship for five days in August.

Allowing the investigation and possible trial against Salvini to continue would put the government at risk of collapse, state news agency Ansa reported on Sunday, citing 5-Star sources.

Tensions in the coalition are already running high with the allies at odds over a long list of issues, including whether to forge ahead with a new Alpine rail tunnel between France and Italy.

Salvini has asked the Senate to reject the request for a trial, and that is a problem for 5-Star, which built its support on a squeaky clean judicial image and has always attacked lawmakers who used parliamentary privilege to avoid trials.

"Who has always preached that politicians must defend themselves in trials and not from trials ... can't have doubts about whether to allow the Salvini probe to proceed," wrote commentator Marco Travaglio in il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, which is considered close to the 5-Star.

The online vote shows the issue has become "a classical case of identity crisis" for the movement, Travaglio said.

At the end of last month, 83 percent of 5-Star voters said Salvini should not be tried, according to an SWG poll, which suggests the issue of parliamentary privilege is no longer of major concern to 5-Star supporters.

The blog post announcing the online vote clearly states that the decision to block the migrants on board the Diciotti coast guard vessel was not Salvini's alone, but was shared by 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and others.

"The delay in the disembarkation of the Diciotti, in order to redistribute the migrants in various European countries, was made in order to protect the interests of the state?" the query reads.

A "yes" will deny prosecutors authorisation, while a "no" vote will allow them to continue, the blog says.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Di Maio and the 5-Star transport minister may be put under investigation alongside Salvini, Italian newspapers said on Sunday, after Conte wrote a letter, which was then deposited in the Senate, saying the decision to block the migrants was taken collectively.

On Sunday, speaking to supporters in Sardinia, Salvini brushed off concern about the online ballot: "What I did, I did to defend the safety of citizens, and if necessary I'd do it again," he said.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by David Evans)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.