Italy's two main factions, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and right-wing populist League, requested the last-minute extension after their leaders met on Wednesday morning, the president's statement said.
“The Five Star Movement and the League have informed the president that they are in talks to try and come to a possible government accord and that they need 24 hours to develop this initiative,” it said.
Mattarella had been preparing to name a “neutral” cabinet to oversee Italy's most pressing matters of government while preparing the country for new elections to break the deadlock created by an inconclusive vote in March.
Yet the two biggest winners from that election now look like they could be approaching a deal.
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Matteo Salvini with his coalition partners at the presidential palace. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Until now the sticking point had been Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister whose Forza Italia party is a junior partner in a right-wing alliance led by the League. The M5S, which was founded in opposition to the political establishment epitomized by Berlusconi, offered to work with the League on the condition that it drop Forza Italia.
Neither the M5S, which won nearly 33 percent of the vote, nor the League's alliance, which got 37 percent, have the numbers to govern alone.
While League leader Matteo Salvini has insisted he won't drop his partners and Berlusconi has compared the M5S to the Nazis, reports on Wednesday said the parties may be approaching a compromise that would see Forza Italia take a back seat.
According to Italian media, Salvini's main political allies are exerting strong pressure on Berlusconi to give his approval to an Five Star-League government, while his own Forza Italia party remains deeply divided on the issue.The regional governor of Italy's northern Liguria region, Giovanni Toti, who holds a lot of clout within Forza Italia, suggested on Wednesday that his party could exercise a “benevolent abstention” in the face of a coalition.
The M5S, too, appears to have softened its stance, with leader Luigi Di Maio telling journalists: “There's not a veto on Berlusconi, just willingness to talk to the League. Full stop.”
Luigi Di Maio speaks to the press after Monday's meetings. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP