Italy’s ruling parties inch towards new government deal

The president of the Chamber of Deputies Roberto Fico, who has an exploratory assignment for the formation of a new government after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, speaks at a press conference in Rome, Italy, 31 January 2021. [EPA-EFE/FABIO FRUSTACI]

The squabbling parties in Italy’s outgoing coalition will hold further detailed talks on forming a new government on Monday (1 February), a senior lawmaker brokering the negotiations said.

Roberto Fico, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, has been tasked with finding a way out of the crisis sparked by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s resignation earlier this week.

He must report back to President Sergio Mattarella by Tuesday on whether or not the parties that have shared power since September 2019 can still govern together – and whether Conte should stay or be replaced.

Meetings on Saturday and Sunday “have shown the common willingness of the political forces to proceed with a debate on issues and programmatic points,” Fico said, adding that discussions would start on Monday.

The centre-left government was plunged into turmoil earlier this month when former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his small Italia Viva party, depriving Conte of his majority in the upper parliamentary chamber, the Senate.

Renzi had for weeks been criticising the prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated Italy’s economy and left more than 88,000 people dead.

Conte – who is as popular with the public as Renzi is unpopular – initially stayed on, trying to persuade opposition lawmakers to fill the gap left by Italia Viva.

But when on Tuesday this week it became clear he could not, he announced his resignation.

Italy's Conte resigns, aims to form third government

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who resigned on Wednesday after Italia Viva ministers resigned from his government, is now looking to obtain a new mandate to form his third consecutive government. While he has the support of the centre-left Democratic …

Conte still hopes to return to lead a new government and is backed by the two main parties in power, the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

But they have also indicated a willingness to patch things up with Renzi – who has refused to discuss Conte’s future, saying they must first agree a programme for any new government.

The crisis is a major distraction as Italy draws up plans for more than €200 billion in European Union virus recovery funds, which must be submitted to Brussels in April.

The main opposition coalition, comprising Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party among others, have demanded snap elections – which opinion polls suggest they would win.

Meanwhile, Renzi’s Italia Viva have said they would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister, a party source said on Sunday.

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” said the source, who declined to be named.

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Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has more than enough on his plate as he deals with a raging coronavirus pandemic, but also faces the more immediate challenge of staying in office.

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