Italy repeat election looms as parties still far apart

Leader of Lega party Matteo Salvini (L) with leader of Forza Italia party Silvio Berlusconi (C) leave after a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace for the third round of formal political consultations following the general elections, in Rome, Italy, 7 May 2018. [Ettore Ferrari/EPA/EFE]

The prospect of an election re-run in Italy grew today (7 May) as President Sergio Mattarella held a final round of consultations to try to break two months of political deadlock with party leaders still far apart.

The head of the far-right League, Matteo Salvini, said he had asked Mattarella to give him a mandate to try to form a government as chief of a centre-right alliance that won the most seats at the inconclusive 4 March election.

“We trust that the president will give us the chance to find a majority in parliament,” Salvini said after seeing Mattarella.

However, the centre-right is some 50 seats short of majority and a source in the president’s office said that without a clear political deal, Mattarella is more likely to try to form a neutral government acceptable to a broad range of parties.

Fear and loathing hamper hopes of government deal in Italy

Deep-rooted hostility built up over years must be overcome if the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) are to strike a deal to form a government and end Italy’s post-election stalemate.

But it was far from certain whether such an administration could win a vote of confidence needed to get off the ground. Both the League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Italy’s single largest party, have been hostile to the idea.

With a mesh of seemingly rigid vetoes still in place, the presidential source said there was a growing possibility that a repeat election could be held as early as July, when many Italians will have already left for their summer holidays.

This would be unprecedented in Italy, where in the post-war period elections have always been held in the spring.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio said after meeting Mattarella that he had reiterated his offer to form a government with the League, by which the two parties would jointly decide on a mutually acceptable prime minister.

5-Star lawmakers call for government deal with far-right League

Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, the largest party in parliament after this month’s election, should try to form a government with its far-right rivals the League, two of its senior politicians said on Tuesday (27 March).

However, he stuck to his refusal to enter into any coalition deal with the League’s main ally, the Forza Italia party led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who 5-Star considers a symbol of political corruption.

Salvini has so far refused to split with Berlusconi.

“We will not support any technocrat government,” Di Maio said, insisting that an early election was the only alternative if the League continued to reject its demands.

The centre-left Democratic Party, which was badly beaten in March after five years in power, has refused to negotiate with any other parties directly but appears willing to back an eventual technocrat cabinet put together by Mattarella.

“We will fully support the president’s efforts,” the PD’s acting leader Maurizio Martina said after his meeting with Mattarella.

The head of state is expected to announce his next move either later on Monday, after he has met with delegations from smaller political parties, or on Tuesday.

While the country continues to be governed by the outgoing, caretaker Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, recent data suggest the economy may be faltering.

“Signs of a slowdown are intensifying, suggesting a scenario of weaker economic growth,” national statistics institute ISTAT said in its monthly bulletin on Monday.

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