Lega leader Matteo Salvini caused a political crisis in Italy last week with his announcement that he wants to pull the plug from the government coalition. A week later that coalition is still in the saddle and it is not clear what will happen next. Five questions about the Italian government crisis.
What happened last week?
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing populist party Lega, announced last Thursday that he wants to submit a motion of no confidence against the government to step out of the anti-establishment five-star movement (M5S).
From the start of the cooperation, the two partners fumbled, who were more driven into each other's arms by lack of seats than by their political agendas.
Recently, Lega has achieved good results in recent polls, much better than those of M5S. Salvini therefore wants new elections. They could make a coalition with other parties on the right - such as the extreme right-wing Brotherhood and the center-right Forza of Silvio Berlusconi - possible.
Why has the government not yet fallen?
Lega won only 17 percent of the vote in the national elections in 2018 and therefore does not have enough parliamentarians to determine when the vote of confidence should take place.
That was to be debated this week in the Italian Senate, which was recalled from recess, but other parties put a stop to it. Coalition partner M5S, the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and Free and Equal (a federation of three smaller left-wing opposition parties, LeU) joined forces to delay Salvini's plan and show him his place. The debate was postponed to next week.
What will happen next week?
That is still unclear, there are a number of options. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who formally does not belong to Lega or M5S, but is closer to the latter party, has been summoned by the Senate to come and provide text and explanation on Tuesday 20 August about the political crisis.
He may then be voted down in the vote of confidence or choose to offer his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, with whom the government would formally fall.
What further complicates the situation is Salvini's response to M5S leader Luigi Di Maio's plan to reduce the number of Italian MPs from 951 to 605. The Lega leader said his party would support that proposal, provided that afterwards follow new elections soon. The vote on the constitutional amendment required for this will take place on 22 August. If the government falls before that time, it will not take place.
Salvini has put himself in a corner with that intention. Employees of the Italian president tell Italian media that Matarella will not allow early elections until any changes are securely anchored in the constitution. That can take months. Salvini may therefore change his mind.
What are the options if the government falls?
In any case, it is likely that the Lega leader will succeed in putting the cabinet under control next week. Then it is up to President Matarella to determine the next steps.
The head of state will first talk to all party leaders to see if a new coalition is possible. If that is not the case, he will hold early elections. They would probably take place at the end of October. In the run-up to that poll, Matarella can appoint an interim government of technocrats.
Is there room for a different coalition than the one between Lega and M5S?
In theory it is. M5S, PD and LeU have already shown that they can mobilize a parliamentary majority on the (center) left. Given the poor results for M5S in the polls (which threatens to lose half of the seats), it may be important for that party to avoid elections.
However, cooperation between M5S and PD is hampered by the difficult relationship between the two. Resistance to established parties such as the PD is what gives the Di Maio movement its right to exist.
In addition, it rumbles within the PD itself. Recently a new party leader, Nicola Zingaretti, was chosen, but many of the current parliamentarians are still indebted to former leader Matteo Renzi. Zingaretti can opt for new elections. He would almost certainly lose PD, but he could get his own people in parliament.
What do the polls actually say?
On Monday a poll was published in which Lega received 38 percent of the votes, PD 23 percent and M5S 16.5 percent.
Among the possible new coalition partners of Lega, the Brothers of Italy - a radical right-wing party with neo-fascist roots - ended up at 8.0 percent and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia at 6.5 percent.
See also: Lega leader Salvini carries Italian government coalition to the grave