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Italian parties say they have agreed on a nominee for prime minister

Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League party prepared on Monday to present their pick for future premier of the country's new populist government and end more than two months of deadlock after inconclusive elections.

Italian parties say they have agreed on a nominee for prime minister
A picture of M5S leader Luigi Di Maio in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

They are due to meet President Sergio Matterella at the presidential palace on Monday evening to formally present their choice.

After a week of haggling, M5S leader Luigi Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini closed a coalition deal and announced a joint programme which turns its back on austerity measures.

Both Di Maio and Salvini dreamed of running the first anti-establishment government within an EU-founding nation, but a clash of egos and lack of majority in parliament forced them to opt for a third candidate. Media reports say the pair will, however, lay claim to their top ministerial picks: interior minister for the nationalist Salvini and minister of economic development for Di Maio.

“We have agreed on the leader and ministers of government and we hope that no one will veto a choice that represents the will of the majority of Italians,” Salvini said on Sunday.

Rumours are also swirling around the nomination for premier with the media betting on a handful of candidates. Giuseppe Conte, 54, a lawyer who teaches law in Florence and Rome is among the rumoured top picks. Though little known in Italy, he has an impressive CV with teaching stints at Yale, Cambridge and Sorbonne.

Andrea Roventini, a 41-year-old economist teaching at the university of Pisa has also been touted as another contender as well as Paolo Savona, 81. Minister for industry between 1993-94, Savona was staunchly opposed to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty which, in the M5S-League programme, is cited as the moment the EU went off track.

READ ALSO: Here are the key proposals from the M5S-League government programme


M5S leader Luigi Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Berlusconi upset

Never afraid of a long shot, former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who is upset with his right-wing ally Salvini, has also offered himself up as future premier.

Following a recent court ruling, the ageing billionaire is once again legally allowed to hold public office and has expressed his discontent with the coalition programme, especially the strict measures against conflict of interests in parliament which he sees as directly targeting his media empire.

“Salvini never spoke on behalf of the right-wing coalition, but only on his own behalf and on behalf of the League,” he said on Friday evening. Berlusconi said his Forza Italia party would present a “reasonable and scrutinizing opposition” to the new government and suggested he could run the government if Salvini decided to ditch M5S.

Mattarella must agree to the parties' nominee before they can seek parliament's approval for their nascent government. The president will also examine the new M5S-League joint programme, overwhelmingly approved over the weekend in a public non-binding vote.

The 58-page programme does not mention a unilateral exit from the eurozone unlike previous versions leaked to the media, but it rejects post-financial crisis austerity policies and features hardline immigration and security proposals.

The document's costly financial measures and eurosceptic tone have got the financial markets worried. The Milan Stock Exchange opened down by nearly two percent Monday, while the spread – the difference between the Italian and German ten-year borrowing rates – has gained 40 points in less than a week, increasing to 170 points.

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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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