Journalist on Newly-Formed Italian Govt: 'the Two Parties Will Take Issue'

by Garry Watts June 3, 2018, 18:01
Journalist on Newly-Formed Italian Govt: 'the Two Parties Will Take Issue'

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League party are swearing in their Cabinet later Friday, capping a roller-coaster week of political and financial turmoil by agreeing to drop a proposed economy minister who had concerned Italy's president.

Italy's two main anti-establishment parties could yet form a government, after the man nominated as interim prime minister said politicians, rather than technocrats like himself, might be able to steer the country out of deadlock.

The law professor who has never before held political office was sworn in on Friday afternoon, ending nearly three months of political uncertainty and bringing to power a new populist government.

Despite pledges to work together, Luigi Di Maio's pro-EU Five Star Movement (MS5) and Matteo Salvini's far-right Lega have so far failed to formed a successful alliance.

If a coalition can not be formed, the country will again hold elections, with the president having to dissolve parliament and host a vote as early as July 29, if most of the major parties have their way.

"We're not Martians, and we'll prove it", said the premier, who in a play on his law professor profession promises to be the "defense lawyer" of the Italian people in an "Italians first" government.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday: "I'm in deep love with Italy, bella Italia" - but he added that he refused to accept that all of Italy's ills can be blamed on the EU.

However, the new government will have to square its reforms with its debt pile which represents 132 percent of its gross domestic product, more than double the EU's 60-percent ceiling. "We should now call this a crisis", said Kit Juckes, an analyst at Societe Generale.

After fresh elections seemed likely, the parties returned to the table and reshuffled the proposed cabinet, with Savona now the EU Affairs minister.

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Conte had been expected to teach at Florence University on Friday morning, but with signals that the 5-Stars and League might get another shot at forming a government, he grabbed a train for Rome.

"We are not yet at the point where investors refuse to lend money to Italy", said Roberto Coronado of PineBridge Investments.

While the head of state stalls, premier-designate Carlo Cottarelli, 63, a former International Monetary Fund executive, is being forced to wait.

Conte has so far left policy specifics to the drivers of his improbable rise, his two deputies: Salvini and 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio.

The role of economy minister was given to the less controversial Giovanni Tria, a political economist who advocates slashing taxes but is in favour of keeping Italy in the euro.

French leader Marine Le Pen hailed the new government as "a victory of democracy over intimidation and threats from the European Union".

If President Mattarella decides to call snap elections - that would suit the two eurosceptic parties, the BBC's James Reynolds in Rome says.

Salvini said he would set straight to work on a campaign pledge to expel many of several hundred thousand asylum-seekers who were rescued at sea from human traffickers over the last few years but are ineligible for asylum.

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