Italian markets and European Commission leaders have been nervous ever since the anti-establishment coalition of the right-wing League and the Five Star Movement took office in June, on the back back of promises to shake up the establishment.
Now Italy’s 77-year-old president Sergio Mattarella has formed a behind-the-scenes alliance with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Finance Minister Giovanni Tria, according to senior officials who asked not to be named.
Their aim is said to be to reign in the more extreme impulses of politicians within the governing coalition.
Giovanni Orsina, professor of government at Luiss university in Rome, reportedly said: “Mattarella is acting behind the scenes as a brake on Salvini and Di Maio.”
A key aim of the conspiracy is understood to be tempering the government’s budget due for unveiling this week.
Tax cuts backed by Matteo Salvini’s League and increased benefit spending supported by his fellow deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, are viewed with dread by the establishment.
Mr Mattarella is said to be coordinating the resistance to this behind the scenes.
It comes amid new fears over a government ‘vendetta’ against civil servants who go against the populists’ radical agenda.
In a leaked audio recording, Rocco Casalino, spokesman to Italy’s prime minister, reportedly said that the Five Star Movement would embark on a “vendetta” to remove civil servants if they serve the state, not the government.
He said: “If in the end they tell us ‘ah, we couldn’t find the money’ then we’ll devote the whole of 2019 to getting rid of all these pieces of sh*t at the Treasury.” He added a “mega-vendetta is ready”.
Mr Conte, a lawyer with no previous political experience, has been Italy’s prime minister since June 1.
His time in office has so far been characterised by conflicting messages from a government which indicated to the EU over the summer that Italy will respect strict budget rules.
Yet voters have also been assured ministers will break austerity shackles and greatly increase public spending.
Economists have predicted that with government debt standing at 130 percent of gross domestic product, just below that of the eurozone’s perennial economic basket-case Greece, Italy could be the EU’s next basket case. Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg, said: “We have to see how the government does its fiscal numbers. If they don’t add up by the end of September, things could indeed get somewhat rough for Italy.”