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Italy’s League and Five Star Movement pledge to get parliament working ASAP

On the eve of a second round of coalition talks, the leaders of Italy's two driving political parties said they would work towards establishing a functioning government as soon as possible.

Italy's League and Five Star Movement pledge to get parliament working ASAP
Matteo Salvini (L) and Luigi Di Maio. Photo: Filippo Monteforte, Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

After a telephone call on Wednesday between Luigi Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), and the nationalist League party's Matteo Salvini, the two said they had agreed on a chair for the special committee of Italy's lower house, “in a spirit of cooperation to get parliament operational as soon as possible”. 

Their deal will see a member of the League, Nicola Molteni, elected to the head of the Chamber of Deputies' special committee, which is responsible for urgent government acts.

A Five Star senator, Vito Crimi, chairs the equivalent committee in the Senate, after a similar agreement between the M5S and League. 

A second round of consultations between Italy's main political parties and President Sergio Mattarella begins on Thursday morning, after the first talks failed to end the deadlock left by last month's inconclusive election.

READ ALSO: Who is Italian President Sergio Mattarella? The man guiding Italy through rocky government talks

Who is Italian President Sergio Mattarella? The man guiding Italy through rocky government talks
Sergio Mattarella pictured during government consultations in early April. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Di Maio had indicated that he did not expect to speak to Salvini before then, having ruled out forming any coalition that includes the League's ally, the Forza Italia party led by Silvio Berlusconi.

Salvini said that he was the one to make the first move on Wednesday, writing on Facebook that he had called Di Maio “to speed up get the Chamber and Senate working”. 

But he added that his rightwing alliance, composed of the League, Forza Italia and the smaller conservative party Brothers of Italy, would head to their meeting with Mattarella “united”. 

READ ALSO: What to expect from Italy's government talks

The M5S has shown no sign of dropping its opposition to Forza Italia, with a senior member of the movement describing Berlusconi today as “the absolute evil of our country”. 

The four-time prime minister is an obstacle to progress and social justice, said Alessandro Di Battista, one of the most prominent Five Star MPs.

The M5S has made overtures to the Democratic Party, the centre-left group thrown out of power by the March 4th vote, as an alternative coalition partner. While the party's leaders insist they will remain in opposition, some of its members have indicated they might be open to governing with the M5S. 

Salvini, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that he was willing to talk to anyone, but advised Di Maio to “come down off the pedestal and stop saying 'me, me, me'”. 

READ ALSO:

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Far right set to take power in Italy after topping vote, exit polls show

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni came top in Italian elections on Sunday, exit polls suggested, putting her eurosceptic populists on course to take power at the heart of Europe.

Far right set to take power in Italy after topping vote, exit polls show

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, has never held office but looks set to form Italy’s most far-right government since the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini during World War II.

Exit polls published by the Rai public broadcaster and Quorum/YouTrend both put Brothers of Italy on top, at between 22 and 26 percent of the vote.

BLOG: Italian election exit polls suggest victory for Giorgia Meloni

Her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, lagged behind but between them appear to have enough seats to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.

The result must still be confirmed but risks fresh trouble for the European Union, just weeks after the far-right outperformed in elections in Sweden.

Meloni, who campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family”, has abandoned her calls for one of Europe’s biggest economies to leave the eurozone, but says Rome must assert its interests more in Brussels.

“Today you can participate in writing history,” the 45-year-old tweeted before the polls closed.

Turnout was lower than in the 2018 elections.

Meloni had been leading opinion polls since Prime Minister Mario Draghi called snap elections in July following the collapse of his national unity government.

Hers was the only party not to join Draghi’s coalition when, in February 2021, the former European Central Bank chief was parachuted in to lead a country still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

For many voters, Meloni was “the novelty, the only leader the Italians have not yet tried”, Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy told AFP before the election.

But the self-declared “Christian mother” – whose experience of government has been limited to a stint as a minister in Berlusconi’s 2008 government – has huge challenges ahead.

Like much of Europe, Italy is suffering rampant inflation while an energy crisis looms this winter, linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Italian economy, the third largest in the eurozone, is also saddled with a debt worth 150 percent of gross domestic product.

‘Limited room for manoeuvre’

Brothers of Italy has roots in the post-fascist movement founded by supporters of Benito Mussolini, and Meloni herself praised the dictator when she was young.

She has sought to distance herself from the past as she built up her party into a political force, going from just four percent of the vote in 2018 to Sunday’s triumph.

Her coalition campaigned on a platform of low taxes, an end to mass immigration, Catholic family values and an assertion of Italy’s nationalist interests abroad.

They want to renegotiate the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, arguing that the almost 200 billion euros Italy is set to receive should take into account the energy crisis.

But “Italy cannot afford to be deprived of these sums”, political sociologist Marc Lazar told AFP, which means Meloni actually has “very limited room for manoeuvre”.

The funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by Draghi.

 Ukraine support

Despite her euroscepticism, Meloni strongly supports the EU’s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, although her allies are another matter.

Berlusconi, the billionaire former premier who has long been friends with Vladimir Putin, faced an outcry this week after suggesting the Russian president was “pushed” into war by his entourage.

It is only one area in which Meloni and her allies do not see eye to eye, leading some analysts to predict that their coalition may not last long.

EXPLAINED: Is Brothers of Italy a ‘far right’ party?

Italian politics is historically unstable, with almost 70 governments since 1946.

A straight-speaking Roman raised by a single mother in a working-class neighbourhood, Meloni rails against what she calls “LGBT lobbies”, “woke ideology” and “the violence of Islam”.

She has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on Italy’s shores each year, a position she shares with Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking charity rescue ships when he was interior minister in 2019.

The centre-left Democratic Party claimed her government would pose a serious risk to hard-won rights such as abortion and will ignore global warming, despite Italy being on the front line of the climate emergency.

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