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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?

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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