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Italy's Conte gives up in bid to form government

May 28, 2018

The prime minister-designate has given up on his mandate to form a government after talks with the president collapsed. The president is to meet with Carlo Cottarelli, a former senior IMF official, on Monday.

Guiseppe Conte
Image: Reuters/A. Bianchi

Italy's prime ministerial candidate, Giuseppe Conte, said Sunday he would not be leading the next Italian government.

"Giuseppe Conte has given up the mandate to form a government, given to him on May 23," an official from the presidential palace said.

Initial reports suggest right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini had refused to accept a presidential veto on his choice for economy minister, the 81-year-old euroskeptic economist Paolo Savona.

Talking to reporters after he informed President Sergio Mattarella of his decision, Conte said he "gave the maximum effort, attention, to carry out this task with the full collaboration" of would-be coalition partners — the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and far-right League.

Conte: 'I have returned the mandate that President Mattarella gave me'

Fresh elections?

Earlier in the day, Conte met Mattarella with his list of ministers in a bid to end the country's political stalemate. But the two could not agree on Savona's role in what would have been Western Europe's first populist government. Mattarella is staunchly pro-Europe.

Even before the two had finished with their meeting, League's Salvini said the only option now was to hold another election, probably later this year.

"In a democracy, if we are still in democracy, there's only one thing to do, let the Italians have their say," Salvini told his supporters in central Italy.

Salvini and 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio also met Mattarella informally on Sunday to try to find a solution.

Di Maio said the president's rejection of the coalition's choice for economy minister was "unacceptable."

"It's an institutional clash without precedent," Di Maio said on a livestreamed Facebook video. "What's the point of going to vote if it's the ratings agencies that decide?"

The 5-Star leader also suggested that Mattarella could be impeached. "I hope that we can give the floor to Italians as soon as possible, but first we need to clear things up. First the impeachment of Mattarella... then to the polls," Di Maio said on Italian television.

Economic consideration

Mattarella said he refused to approve Savona's appointment as that would have "alarmed markets and investors, Italians and foreigners."

"Every day, the [bond] spread goes up, it raises our debt costs," he said.

Savona has likened Italy to being in a "cage" of austerity restrictions favored by fellow eurozone member Germany.

Mattarella's office said the president has invited Carlo Cottarelli, a former senior director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for talks on Monday.

The announcement suggested Mattarella may ask him to head a technocrat government.

ap/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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