Government: South Tyrol with a new center-right government

Government: South Tyrol with a new center-right government

To date, there has been less interest in politics in South Tyrol. But now the long-term ruling SVP party is entering into an alliance with three right-wing parties – a model for others in Europe?

These are special days in South Tyrol right now. On the one hand, because the predominantly German-speaking province in the north of Italy can celebrate a new hero: tennis professional Jannik Sittner from the mountain village of Sexten, who won the Australian Open at the weekend and is now at the start of a world career at the age of 22.

And then there is also a turning point in state politics: today, after decades of great dominance, the Christian Democratic South Tyrolean People’s Party (SVP) is entering into an alliance with three parties from the right-wing camp. There has never been such a grand coalition in South Tyrol. A sign for other regions in Europe?

The mood in the holiday region with its 530,000 inhabitants is definitely tense. Since the new coalition emerged as a result of the decline of the previous “collective party” in the parliamentary elections in the fall to just 34.5 percent, there have been several protest marches. Even a cardboard coffin with the initials SVP was carried through the capital Bolzano. Open letters came from art and science warning against “blatantly neo-fascist politics.” Some accuse the old and new head of government Arno Kompatscher of making a “pact with the devil”.

Three partners from the right

The reason for the excitement is that the new coalition that comes into office today also includes parties, some of which are far to the right: the Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) of Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with origins in post-fascism, the right-wing national Lega of Vice -Prime Minister Matteo Salvini from the same party family as the AfD and the Freedom Party, which is close to the right-wing populist FPÖ from neighboring Austria. The smallest partner in the new five-party alliance is the conservative citizens’ list La Civica.

The cooperation is also delicate because, for historical reasons, the SVP has always attached great importance to demarcation to the right: After the First World War, South Tyrol and the neighboring province of Trentino (then: Welschtirol) were separated from Austria and given to Italy. The fascist dictator Benito Mussolini then had people from the south settle with the aim of “Italianization”. German was banned in schools.

Beyond the firewall?

After the Second World War, it took decades for the South Tyroleans to win the statute in its current form after the first statute of autonomy in 1948. The SVP was a defining force: This is another reason why one should be careful with comparisons. From a German perspective, the three right-wing SVP partners are probably very close to the political “firewall” or already on the other side. Some even think that the new alliance is as if CSU Prime Minister Markus Söder in Bavaria had to get along not only with Hubert Aiwanger’s Free Voters, but also with the AfD and a Bavarian branch of the FPÖ.

Kompatscher, who was re-elected as state governor by the parliament in Bolzano in the middle of the month, doesn’t want to know anything about it. “The comparison is clearly lagging,” says the 52-year-old to the German Press Agency. “We stay where we are. We don’t move to the right.” And it’s certainly not a pact with the devil. “We haven’t sold our souls. And we won’t.”

Head of government speaks of “community of convenience”

Kompatscher speaks of a “community of convenience” that there was practically no way around due to the election results and the constitution. It could also be an advantage to govern with two parties that are also in power in Rome.

In fact, the Statute of Autonomy stipulates that a party from the Italian language group must always be involved in the government of South Tyrol. Even at times of greatest dominance, the SVP always had an Italian partner. What is new is that there are three of them – and also that the SVP had to include another party from German-speaking countries for the first time. The center-center-right-right-right coalition (2M3R for short) now has 19 of 35 seats in parliament. So that everyone in the cabinet gets positions, it was enlarged from eight to eleven department heads.

Head of government: No model for right-of-center governments

Kompatscher also rejects suggestions that a model for governments far to the right of center is being tried out in South Tyrol, which could then also be used in Germany or elsewhere. “Absolutely not. I object to the idea that we should be the pioneers of anything in this direction.” The coalition agreement states a clear yes to Europe and a clear no to any fascist ideology. “There is a clear red line,” promises the SVP man. “If this goes in the wrong direction, the rip line will be drawn.” He will be under a lot of scrutiny in the near future.

The country’s new tennis hero is currently staying out of South Tyrolean politics. Sinner has now returned from Australia, but he doesn’t have time to go home yet: This Thursday, when the five-party alliance gets to work in Bolzano, Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella will give him a big reception in Rome. The new state government will have to wait.

Source: Stern

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