19 European media outlets from 13 countries are fact-checking the May 2019 European elections for you

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No, the Italian government is not the most approved in Europe


Pagella Politica, Italy

24 April 2019, Updated: 8 May 2019

On April 8 2019, in an interview with la Repubblica, Italy’s Economy Minister Giovanni Tria said that the Conte government has the most “solid” level of parliamentary and electoral support in Europe. We’ve checked, and Tria is guilty of too much optimism. Let’s see why.

Parliamentary support

On June 5 and 6 2018, the Italian government obtained the confidence of the parliament, with a favourable vote from 350 members of parliament and 171 senators. To facilitate comparisons with other European countries, we’ll convert these numbers into percentages: given that there are 630 members of parliament, and 321 senators (315 senators plus 6 senators for life), support from the legislative chamber comes to 55.5 percent, and 53.3 percent from the Senate.

If we focus on the higher majority (from the legislative chamber), there are currently at least 6 executives in Europe which enjoy greater parliamentary support:

  • Austria’s Kurz government (113 votes out of 183 in favour, equal to 61.7 percent);
  • France’s Philippe II government (370 votes out of 577, equal to 64.1 percent);
  • Latvia’s Karinis government (61 votes out of 100, equal to 63.9 percent);
  • Lithuania’s Skvernelis government (90 votes out of 141, equal to 63.8 percent);
  • Romania’s Dancila government (282 votes out of 469, equal to 60.1 percent);
  • Hungary’s Orban IV government (134 votes out of 199, equal to 66.8 percent);

Differences between countries

Of course, the comparison is not perfect, given that it concerns different institutional systems. The power of the Parliament differs according to the form of government: parliamentary (in Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary), semi-presidential (in France and Romania) or mixed (Austria). [1]

There is no case where the executive can be completely independent of parliamentary approval, but there are some significant differences: in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Austria, the Parliament can bring about change to the executive through a vote of no confidence, forcing the government to dissolve. In France and Romania, on the other hand, a no-confidence motion does not necessarily force the executive to change direction. In this case, the president holds certain powers which he or she can exercise without being constricted by the approval of the Parliament. In consequence, the president can implement his or her government agenda even when a parliamentary majority supports a government (composed of the prime minister and ministers) with a different political orientation.

Parliamentary support, in short, has a different influence in different countries.
What are the polls saying about confidence in the Conte government?

In January 2019, the Carraneo Institute – a private body conducting economic and social research – published a report, The strange case of the Conte government’s approval ratings, which analyses approval for government and opposition parties in terms of voting intention.

Six months after they took office, the parties that supported the Italian government earned the satisfaction of the electorate, coming second place in Europe for popularity, beaten only by Malta. But since January, something has changed.

Firstly, the government’s approval rating has fallen slightly, though it remains well inside the majority. Declining support for the Five Star Movement is the main cause.

At the beginning of the year, Lega and M5S together could boast of around 58 percent approval in Italy. On April 5 2019 (three days before Tria made his claim), according to the meta poll produced by Youtrend – which combines voting intentions recorded by eight different institutions – the two governing parties’ approval had fallen to 53.6 percent: 32.1 percent of participants would today vote for Lega, and 21.5 percent for M5S.

Secondly, some European governments which were less popular than the Conte government in January 2019, have now surpassed it. That is, if we look at voting intention for the next European elections, produced by Politico.
This is true of the Austrian government (which can boast of more than 58 percent approval, shared between the Austrian Freedom Party and the Austrian People’s Party), the Hungarian government (54.3 percent approval) and the Maltese government (63 percent approval).

The verdict

Giovanni Tria claimed that the Italian government enjoys a level of electoral and parliamentary support that is unique in Europe: no other government can boast of greater support.

The Minister of Economy and Finance is exaggerating in both cases. Firstly, at least six current governments enjoy greater approval than Lega and M5S, including France and Austria. Secondly, as far as voting intentions are concerned, in recent months Italy has been surpassed by Austria and Hungary, with Malta still holding the lead. However, the Conte government still remains near the top: in conclusion, Tria gets a “not really”.

[1] In Austria the Federal President is elected by direct suffrage and may come from a non-governing party. His or her powers are not executive in nature, and resemble those of the president in a parliamentary republic.

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