Italy faces political turmoil and possible early elections after presidential veto

Charlene Craig
May 28, 2018

A former International Monetary Fund official has been asked to be Italy's new prime minister amid outrage from the country's populist parties.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella will receive prime minister-designate Giuseppe Conte at 7 pm (1700 GMT) after a days-long standoff over the composition of Italy's next cabinet, media reports said Sunday.

The gains were led by the Milan FTSE MIB stock exchange, which jumped almost 2% as investors backed Carlo Cottarelli, an economist formerly with the International Monetary Fund, to form a technocrat government.

The 5star / League movement has a majority in both houses of parliament.

Mr Conte, a political novice, was proposed by the two parties as prime minister in an attempt to break Italy's 11-week political deadlock.

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"They've replaced a government with a majority with one that won't obtain one", said Di Maio to supporters at a rally near Rome.

If, as expected, he fails to win parliamentary backing, Cottarelli would simply ferry Italy to elections that would most likely be held in September or October.

After being summoned to and emerging from the Quirinal presidential palace, Premiere-Designate Giuseppe Conte did not say why he couldn't form what would have been Western Europe's first populist government.

Financial markets tumbled last week on fears the mooted coalition would unleash a spending splurge and increase Italy's already huge debt mountain, which is equivalent to more than 1.3 times the nation's domestic output.

Conte on Sunday remitted his mandate after Italian President Sergio Mattarella nixed his choice of euroskeptic economist Paolo Savona as finance minister.

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The president explained in a televised address his decision to block the appointment as finance minister of 81-year-old Eurosceptic economist Paolo Savona.

Adding an element of constitutional risk, members of the Five Star party subsequently called for Mattarella's impeachment for betraying the Italian people. Cottarelli may be asked to try to form an interim government before the country heads to early elections.

Both League leader Matteo Salvini and the 5-Star candidate Luigi Di Maio have criticized Mattarella's resistance to Savona, insisting it reflected the displeasure of "Berlin" and other establishment powers rather than true concern for Italians. Savona has questioned whether Italy should ditch the euro as its currency.

Outgoing Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said on Sunday that the problem was not Savona, but the coalition's economic plan, which is "clearly unsustainable". He is meeting Mr Cottarelli this morning, an official said.

"The League and 5-Star Movement parties could expand their influence even further if a re-election is called, and Italian politics will remain unstable", said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo. He has as much to gain from a new election as the League, which has seen its popularity only rise in the weeks since the March 4 election resulted in a hung parliament.

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