Italy's center-right leaders agree to talk to Five Star

Wednesday , March 14, 2018 - 5:55 AM

John Follain

(c) 2018, Bloomberg.

Italy’s center-right alliance led by the euroskeptic League has taken the first step toward negotiating with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, raising the prospect of a populist administration which investors regard with alarm.

League leader Matteo Salvini has been given a mandate by his partners in the bloc to talk to Five Star and the center-left Democratic Party, spokesmen for Salvini and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday, confirming an earlier report by newswire Ansa.

Berlusconi, of the Forza Italia party, and Giorgia Meloni, of the far-right Brothers of Italy, agreed to entrust Salvini with talks about the election of parliamentary speakers due from March 23 at a meeting of the three leaders at Berlusconi’s Rome residence on Tuesday night.

A government of Five Star and the League would risk spooking financial markets and Italy’s European Union partners concerned about spending policies and euro-skepticism.

While there was agreement at the meeting on talks for parliamentary posts, signs of discord emerged over the prospect of governing alliances. Salvini’s office said the three parties in the center-right bloc all ruled out any government accord with the ruling Democrats, who scored their worst-ever result in the March 4 elections. Berlusconi’s spokesman said however that only Salvini had ruled out such an accord.

Berlusconi reprimanded Salvini over the possibility of an alliance with Five Star, according to newspaper La Repubblica.

“These weren’t the agreements. Do it, go ahead and do the government with the grillini” - the label for Five Star members derived from its co-founder Beppe Grillo - the newspaper quoted Berlusconi as telling Salvini. “We’ll go into opposition, we can’t wait to denounce your betrayal of the voters.”

Berlusconi’s office said there had been no tension between him and Salvini. Salvini’s office also said there had been no tension, adding the encounter was positive and cordial.

The choice of speakers for the lower house and the Senate will be the first clue to possible new alliances in the search for a new government. Salvini and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio are both seeking support from other groups to form a majority.

Five Star emerged as the single biggest party after the elections, while the center-right alliance took the most votes. Both fell short of a parliamentary majority.


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