According to internal rumours, Salvini left the hospital with Berlusconi’s assurance that Forza Italia would vote for Marcello Foa, the man chosen by the League to be President of Rai Television.
But when in the following hours the Supervision Commission gathered to show its approval of the appointed president, Forza Italia members unexpectedly stepped back and the whole plan blew up.
Outraged over what he considers a clear betrayal, Matteo Salvini pointed his finger at his coalition allies.
“The League has to note that Forza Italia has chosen to be with the Democratic Party in trying to stop the change the government wants to effect,” he said.
“We’re not in favour of ending the coalition, but if Forza Italia wants to take the Democratic Party’s side, then, go on. If they want to make a coalition with PD, I am ready to send my best wishes to them.”
What happened within Forza Italia between Matteo Salvini’s visit to Berlusconi at the hospital and the failed confirmation of Foa in the Commission remains unclear.
Some Forza Italia members in the Commission said that the Berlusconi’s order to not oppose Foa’s election was never communicated, while others explained that Berlusconi called, but it was too late.
The more reliable voices, however, speak of a serious revolt within Forza Italia against the leader’s will.
Apparently, when Berlusconi requested the support of the president chosen by Matteo Salvini, Forza Italia plenipotentiary Gianni Letta opposed the decision and the party’s vice president Antonio Tajani called Berlusconi threatening to resign.
Surprised by this strong and unexpected opposition to his instructions, Berlusconi decided to step back and a few hours later he published a note to clarify his position.
But instead of calming the waters, Berlusconi’s explanation added more confusion to an already chaotic scenario.
He explained that it wasn’t his intention to give orders to Forza Italia’s members of the Commission and that they were free to decide, according to their own ideals, whether to approve the president chosen by the League or not.
But the rumour that things went very differently spread quickly.
Many started seeing the episode as a sign of Berlusconi’s weakening grip on the party, which would also raise concerns about the future of Forza Italia.
Since the last election, when Matteo Salvini’s League became the stronger component within the centre-right coalition, Forza Italia is at risk of being torn apart, while Berlusconi is struggling to keep the party united.
A group of Forza Italia members, including MPs, local councillors and mayors, have tried to jump on board with the League, but they have always been stopped by Salvini himself because of a sort of gentleman’s agreement he made with Berlusconi.
Forza Italia’s betrayal is however changing Salvini’s perspective and he now seems inclined to punish his ally.
“I have been fair until today, but if Forza Italia decides to pick the PD’s side, it is fair that those who lean towards the right can choose to come to the League,” he said to the Quotidiano Nazionale.