Italy's President Sergio Mattarella put the country on track for snap elections later this year after appointing a eurozone-friendly interim prime minister rather than a coalition-backed anti-establishment candidate to the ministry of economy.
Just after Mattarella appointed former International Monetary Fund (IMF) official, Carlo Cottarelli, as interim prime minister today the newly named official told reporters, "I'll present myself to parliament with a program which - if it wins the backing of parliament - would include the approval of the 2019 budget. Then parliament would be dissolved with elections at the beginning of 2019."
Cottarelli has just until the coming hours to try to gain a parliamentary majority to form a government, something Mattarella hasn’t been able to do since elections took place last March.
The interim prime minister isn’t expected to be able to pull this off either, in which case, he’ll be sworn in along with the president’s proposed cabinet, and serve until the next elections which politicians hope will produce a government.
In a televised address on Sunday, Mattarella rejected the far-right League’s and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement’s nomination of Paolo Savona to head the ministry of economics based on the 81-year old’s anti-eurozone rhetoric. Last February Savona said the euro was a "mistake for our economy."
The president’s appointment temporarily stabilized the euro and Italian stocks and bonds but these were rattled again after word of fall elections began to spread.
The new polls, which don’t have a definitive date, are likely to decide Italy's role within the European Union and the eurozone, as the vote could become a de facto referendum on Italy's euro membership.
Politicians within the euro zone's third-largest economy have been attempting to form a coalition government since March election results presented no majority. Anti-establishment forces abandoned efforts to form a coalition at the weekend after a standoff with the president over his refusal to place Savona in his cabinet.
The 5-Star Movement and League party have accused Mattarella of betraying voters and are calling for street protests to take place on June 2.
"This is not a democracy, this doesn't respect the popular vote," League chief Matteo Salvini said after Cottarelli accepted his appointment.
The 5-Star leader, Luigi Di Maio, called on parliament to impeach Mattarella, a process that has never been achieved and could take up to eight months.
"Last night was the darkest Italy's democracy has ever seen," Di Maio told reporters. "The truth is they don't want us to take power."
A 5-Star source said it was considering an election alliance with the League. In March, 5-Star ran its own campaign while the League campaigned as part of a right-wing coalition with the party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.