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  • Five-Star Movement activists demonstrate ahead of a speech by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the senate on the ongoing government crisis in Rome.

    Five-Star Movement activists demonstrate ahead of a speech by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the senate on the ongoing government crisis in Rome. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 August 2019
Opinion

Both parties suggested that a deal for the formation of a new government was imminent, with the re-appointment of Conte as prime minister.

Italian anti-establishment movement Five-Star and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) appeared close to a deal Monday after the PD said it would back down from a veto on Giuseppe Conte serving another term as prime minister.

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Close to the Five-Star movement, Conte is not affiliated with any political party. Last week he presented his resignation following the drop of a one-year-old coalition between Five-Star and the far-right League party. The coalition ended after the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, who is also the Minister of Interior, decided to pull out.

President Sergio Mattarella allowed the Five-Star and the PD a chance to avoid snap elections that would have involved the risk of Salvini’s victory, by forming a new coalition. Mattarella told both parties to report back by Tuesday, but on Monday, he extended the deadline by an extra day to Wednesday.

Two PD sources told Reuters a deal looked imminent involving Conte's return as prime minister at the head of a PD/Five Star coalition.

The Prime Minister came back from the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in France, to meet with Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and PD chief Nicola Zingaretti. Him serving a second term as prime minister was demanded by Five-Star while rejected by the PD, constituting thus the main obstacle to the deal.

Conte, who was virtually an unknown jurist when Five-Star and the League chose him to lead their government 14 months ago, is currently Italy’s most popular politician according to the polls.

"We are working to give Italy a new government ... I think we are on the right track. I am optimistic," Zingaretti told reporters after meeting with Di Maio, adding that a lasting government was his goal, adding that "we don't want to form another one like the last one that collapses after 14 months."

Five-Star has been divided between those in favor of an alliance with the PD and others opposing it, under the argument that such a deal would harm the anti-establishment image of the party and reduce the vote intentions in its favor, intensifying a decline that already started last year.

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League chief Salvini ended his ruling coalition with Five-Star hoping to push for snap elections and to take advantage of a surge in his popularity through his harsh anti-migrant policies, however, the move was thwarted by the talks among the PD and Five Star. An alliance between both parties would relegate the League into opposition.   

In a parliamentary system like the Italian one, only the president has the power to dissolve the parliament. Mattarella made it clear that if the main parties were unable to form a new government, he would call for elections. The president will meet the PD on Wednesday at 14:00 local time and close consultations with Five-Star at 17:00 local time.

The League, seeing that its strategy is about to fail, has intended to resurrect its coalition with Five-Star and reacted angrily to the signs of a possible agreement between the latter and the PD, as both parties are known to be historically antagonists.

"It seems like a government is being born with [the goal of] power being the only glue," Salvini who sounded almost resigned, told reporters on Monday.

"The high road is voting," he insisted, adding that any new government would be "betrayal of the popular will."

Opinion polls show the League lost between five and seven percentage points since the collapse of the government, though it remains the most popular party, followed by the PD and Five-Star.

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