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POLITICS

Italy’s League and M5S set to announce their government programme

Italian anti-establishment and far-right leaders were poised on Monday to announce a government programme and nominate a prime minister, ending two months of political deadlock.

Italy's League and M5S set to announce their government programme
League leader Matteo Salvini and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio. Photos: Tiziana Fabi, Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The leaders of the anti-immigrant League party and Five Star Movement were meeting Italian president Sergio Mattarella on Monday afternoon to share details of a government programme for the eurozone's third largest economy, thrashed out over the weekend.

The M5S leader Luigi Di Maio began talks with Mattarella at 2:30 pm, with Matteo Salvini and other members of his League party beginning their meeting at 4 pm. Salvini had earlier said the pair were “writing history” after making a brief call to the president's office on Sunday.

An M5S representative told AFP on Monday that the pair want to present the details of their agreement — including their prime ministerial candidate — to the president before making them public. 

Di Maio said that the nominee would be a politician and “not a technocrat” after meeting Salvini in Milan on Sunday. If Mattarella accepts the nomination then the position could be filled within days.

The prospective PM is likely not to belong to a third party, a factor which might reassure other mainstream European political parties, for whom the eurosceptic M5S-League partnership represents a blow.

Salvini has in the past referred to the EU as a “gulag” and struck alliances with anti-union figures such as Viktor Orban and Marine Le Pen, and while Di Maio has softened Five Star's previously antagonistic tone on Europe, both his party and the League have vowed to take tough stances with Brussels on issues like EU fiscal rules and migration.

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What's stopping Italy's two leading parties from forming a government?Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement (L) and Matteo Salvini of the League. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

According to reports, the parties have also agreed on rolling back increases to the age of retirement, while the M5S is willing to follow the League's hardline anti-immigration policies.

Salvini and Di Maio are also willing to make compromises over their flagship policies – the League's drastic drop in taxes and the M5S's universal basic income – which look tricky to reconcile in the eurozone's second most indebted country.

For the composition of the government, the League and M5S must also agree on representation from the parties.

On its own, Salvini's League won 17 percent of the votes on March 4th, but it was part of a right-wing alliance including Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party that garnered 37 percent of the vote. M5S is by far Italy's largest single party after conquering nearly 33 percent of the electorate.

READ ALSO: What's stopping Italy's two leading parties from forming a government?

POLITICS

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.

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