Italy’s president has given the country’s main political parties four more days to negotiate the formation of an alternative government after the collapse of the stormy alliance between the far-right League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
Sergio Mattarella said on Thursday night that the crisis must be “resolved quickly” and that without a solid majority the only other option would be new elections.
“But that path cannot be travelled lightly,” he said after a day of meetings with leaders from the League, M5S, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), Forza Italia and the smaller far-right party, Brothers of Italy.
Mattarella said he will host new consultations on Tuesday in order to “make the necessary decisions”.
“Only governments that obtain the confidence of parliament with group agreements on a programme to govern the country are possible,” he added. “I am told that initiatives have been initiated between parties. I have the duty to request prompt decisions.”
Outgoing prime minister Giuseppe Conte ended the 14-month alliance between the League and M5S on Tuesday after the League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, declared the partnership unworkable earlier this month as he manoeuvred to exploit his high popularity and bring about snap elections.
But what kind of shape a new majority would take looked more unclear on Thursday afternoon after Nicola Zingaretti, the PD leader, laid down tough conditions for a potential alliance with long-time foe, M5S. Fearing the partnership, Salvini also appeared to backtrack after his talks with Mattarella. He said he still wanted elections, but that the League could also resume governing with M5S as long as it got things done.
“There was a stalled government that stalled the country,” Salvini said. “If they want to restart the government and the country, I am here, without looking back … if there’s a different team that get things done, I won’t hold a grudge. An M5S-PD agreement would mean returning to ‘the old politics’.”
Luigi Di Maio, M5S’s leader, emerged from his talks with Mattarella saying his party was striving for a solid majority, without stipulating with which party.
“We won’t let the ship sink, or Italians will pay,” he said.
After his meeting with Mattarella, Zingaretti said he was willing to explore a government with M5S but not at any cost. One of his conditions would be M5S agreeing to scrap the draconian anti-immigration bill passed with the League. He has also objected to Conte leading their potential alternative government. Other stipulations include a commitment to remaining in the EU, changes to social and economic policy and a focus on sustainable development.
“We need a turning-point government, alternative to the rightist parties, with a new, solid programme, an ample parliamentary base, which will restore hope to Italians,” he said. “If these conditions do not exist, the natural outcome of the crisis is an early election for which the PD is ready.”