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Italy takes ‘big steps’ towards forming a government

Italian anti-establishment and far-right parties said they took "big steps" on Thursday towards forming a populist government to end months of deadlock.

Italy takes 'big steps' towards forming a government
President Sergio Mattarella, who is leading talks on Italy new government. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

According to the Italian press, the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the anti-immigrantion League party have asked President Sergio Mattarella to give them until Monday to resolve the stalemate, failing which fresh elections could be held. 

M5S leader Luigi Di Maio and League chief Matteo Salvini met at the lower house Chamber of Deputies on Thursday morning.

“Big steps were made towards the composition of the executive and the nomination of the prime minister,” the pair said in a statement after the morning round of talks.

A question mark still hangs over who would clinch the top spot in a M5S-League coalition. Both Di Maio and Salvini have said they are willing to step back and let someone else take the premiership but, according to the press, neither has completely given up on their ambitions to lead the country.

Later on Thursday Salvini took to Twitter saying, “We are working for you,” with a photo of him posing next to a giant bulldozer.

A beaming Di Maio said, “I cannot hide my joy that we can finally begin to take care of Italy's problems,” in a Facebook video.

Meanwhile experts began to pour over the parties' key proposals in order to forge a government contract. Talks over policies will likely be complicated given the serious differences between the two parties – in particular regarding the M5S's flagship universal basic income policy, which the League has said will create a culture of dependency.

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Luigi Di Maio (L) and Matteo Salvini. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

A breakthrough in negotiations for the two parties came on Wednesday when Salvini's right-wing coalition partner, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, gave the green light for the pair to form a government without his Forza Italia party.

Salvini and Berlusconi's coalition won the most seats in the March election, but the 81-year-old ex-premier has been a sticking point in the ensuing horse-trading. Di Maio insisted Salvini dump the scandal-dogged media mogul Berlusconi and form a government with the M5S and without Forza Italia.

Late on Wednesday Berlusconi announced he would not block a possible coalition deal between the two parties. Between them they would have enough seats in both houses of parliament to form a majority.

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After three failed rounds of consultations hosted by President Sergio Mattarella, Italy had looked to be heading either for a caretaker government, chosen by the president, or fresh elections.

Both the League and Five Star are staunchly opposed to a caretaker government and without their support the initiative would not pass a confidence vote in parliament.

The alternative could be fresh elections as early as July.

“We still have to work on the programme, on dates, on the team and the things that need doing,” Salvini said. “Either we reach a conclusion, or we return to the voters”. 

READ ALSO: The Local's introductory guide to Italian politics

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.

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