Italy’s League opens the door to a deal with Five Stars

Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini on Wednesday offered the first signs of compromise in the battle for power following Italy's inconclusive March 4th election, revealing that he was ready to work with anyone to form a government – except the vanquished Democratic Party.

Italy's League opens the door to a deal with Five Stars
Matteo Salvini (L) and Luigi Di Maio. Photos: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Previously bullish Salvini, leader of the far-right League that heads the right-wing coalition which won the most votes in last week's election, told reporters he was the right's prime ministerial candidate but admitted that he “doesn't yearn to be premier at all costs”.

The 45-year-old also refused point blank to work with the ruling Democratic Party (PD), whose centre-left coalition slumped to third on less than 23 percent of the vote and with whom Salvini has frequently battled over immigration.

READ ALSO: Understanding the election result, and what happens next

“We will work in the coming weeks to find a majority, and what I can exclude is that the losers, the PD… could be part of this majority. We will talk about everything else in the next few weeks,” Salvini said.

That dismissal of the PD leaves the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), the largest single party in Italy after picking up around 33 percent of the vote, as the only possible partner with whom the right could realistically form a government.

Salvini called M5S leader Luigi Di Maio on Wednesday evening, and told press the two had agreed on the need to discuss the Speakers of the two chambers of Italian parliament.

In his account of the call, published on the M5S blog on Thursday, Di Maio said he had told Salvini that the M5S would insist on choosing the speaker of the lower house. That appointment is separate from the formation of a government, he added.

The two leaders acknowledged each other's election success, Di Maio said, but have not scheduled a meeting – for now.

'Don't want chaos'

The League is also the only party with which the M5S can form a majority, as the PD have decided to stay in opposition and have repeatedly called on the M5S and the League to work towards a government of their own.

Di Maio immediately claimed victory in the aftermath of the election despite his party gaining fewer votes than Salvini's coalition. Speaking to the same international media on Tuesday he lamented the lack of proposals to have come the M5S's way from other political parties since the election.

He also said that he would not change his party's manifesto pledges nor accept a different ministerial team from the one he presented before the election.

Talking to Five Star Movement voters in neglected suburban Naples
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

However on Wednesday 31-year-old Di Maio said to business group Confcommercio that he didn't “want to leave the country in chaos,” and that he thought he could help deliver a government quicker than the six months it took Germany to form the grand coalition that was sworn in on Wednesday.

Like Di Maio, Salvini wants any new government to be guided by the promises made during the campaign, which for the right includes a flat tax of 15 percent and the creation of “a less bureaucratic and more federal Italy”.

“I'll do everything that is humanly and democratically possible to respect the mandate given to me by the voters,” Salvini said. “If from this starting point there are other suggestions we're happy to listen to them.”


Salvini said that he would not break with his coalition in order to form a government with the M5S, meaning that Di Maio would find himself negotiating with a four-party group that commands more seats than him and contains Silvio Berlusconi, who is hostile to the M5S.

“I opened the door just to kick them out,” Berlusconi said to reporters on Wednesday. That would inevitably lead to compromise over key policy issues and the team of ministers he presented before the election.

Salvini also outlined the Russophile, eurosceptic politics that were once characteristic of the M5S but have been rejected by Di Maio since he took the reigns of the party last year. He said that the euro “was, and is a mistake” and that sanctions against Russia were “a folly”.


Italy's stock market slides after uncertain election result
However he said that he would revise relations should “clear proof” emerge of Russia's involvement in the nerve gas poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. Britain says Russia's involvement is “highly likely” and on Wednesday expelled 23 Russian diplomats.

“It's 2018. You can't go around poisoning people,” Salvini said. Salvini also alluded to the M5S's universal income proposal, which would guarantee 780 euros ($960) a month for the country's poorest, as being part of a “cultural difference” between the two political groups.

“We want to cultivate work while — at least by what I read — their proposals are based more on assistance than development,” he said. “But with the PD out of the way, anything is possible.”

By Terry Daley


Italy’s Meloni begins tricky government talks after election win

Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her allies on Tuesday began what is set to be a weeks-long process of forming a new government, with crises looming on several fronts.

Italy's Meloni begins tricky government talks after election win

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which triumphed in Sunday’s elections, has no experience of power but must assemble a cross-party team to tackle sky-high inflation and energy prices, and relations with a wary Europe.

The 45-year-old is hoping to be the first woman to lead Italy as prime minister, but needs her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party and former Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, for a majority in parliament.

The division of the top jobs – notably economy, foreign affairs, the defence and interior ministries – will always be political but now, more than ever, “will have to reflect areas of expertise”, the Stampa daily noted.

President Sergio Mattarella will begin consultations on who should lead the new government only once the Senate and Chamber presidents have been elected by parliament, which meets on October 13th.

In the past, it has taken anything between four and 12 weeks for a new administration to take office.

But the first deadline for action is coming up fast, with Italy due to submit its draft plan for next year’s budget to Brussels by October 15th.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new government

The parties have said they want to make major changes, with a manifesto promising to slash taxes, roll back welfare, and “revise” the terms of Italy’s recovery fund agreement with Brussels – potentially putting the rest of the deal, worth a total of almost 200 billion euros to Italy, at risk.

EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said he urged “the next Italian government to ensure that this opportunity is seized”, saying the fund was key to putting Italy on a path to “strong and durable growth”.

Agnese Ortolani, senior Europe analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said she expected Meloni “to continue to reassure the markets by picking a non-controversial figure for the role of finance minister”.

“She will also want to avoid reputational damage by nominating someone who is not perceived as credible by the markets,” she said in a note.

READ ALSO: Doubts rise over ‘loose cannon’ Salvini after Italy’s election

Meloni’s allies have been pitching for heavyweight positions, Salvini wanting his old job as interior minister back, and Berlusconi eyeing president of the Senate.

Their parties’ disappointing performance in the polls, however, with neither reaching 10 percent while Brothers of Italy’s secured 26 percent, means Meloni may already be planning to sideline them.

League leader Matteo Salvini (L) and Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni are set to form a government together following the election. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Salvini and Berlusconi do not see eye-to-eye with Meloni on several fronts, including on Russia and public spending to relieve the cost of living crisis.

With all the potential friction ahead, winning the elections “was almost the easy part”, commented Luciano Fontana, chief editor of the Corriere della Sera daily.

Berlusconi downplayed concerns he would rock the boat Tuesday, claiming his party was ready to make compromises “in the country’s interests”.

His ally Antonio Tajani, a former European parliament president, is tipped as possible foreign minister, an appointment which could both appease Berlusconi and assuage international fears that Meloni’s Eurosceptic populist party plans to pick fights with Brussels.

Salvini may prove more difficult. He is currently on trial for allegedly abusing his powers as interior minister in 2019 to block migrants at sea, which some say could rule him out returning to the job.

“It won’t be an easy relationship. It’s likely that (Salvini) will be given a more marginal role in the government than he wants,” Sofia Ventura, political sciences professor at Bologna University, told the foreign press association in Rome.

“Defusing Salvini” without sparking a backlash that could weaken the government is “Meloni’s first test”, the Repubblica daily said.