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article imageItaly's populist parties to name future premier pick

By Lucy ADLER (AFP)     May 21, 2018 in World

Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League party prepared Monday to present their pick for future premier of the country's nascent populist government after months of deadlock.

The leaders of the two parties were due to formally present their choice to President Sergio Mattarella late Monday afternoon.

After a week of haggling, M5S head Luigi Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini on Friday closed a coalition deal and announced a joint programme, which turns its back on austerity measures.

Both men dreamt of running the first anti-establishment government within an EU-founding nation, but a clash of egos and lack of majority in parliament forced them to opt for a third candidate.

Media reports say the pair will, however, lay claim to top ministerial posts -- interior minister for the nationalist Salvini and minister of economic development for Di Maio.

"We have agreed on the leader and ministers of government and we hope that no one will veto a choice that represents the will of the majority of Italians," Salvini said Sunday.

Rumours are also swirling around the nomination for premier with the media betting on a handful of candidates.

Giuseppe Conte, 54, a lawyer who teaches law in Florence and Rome is the rumoured top pick. Though little known in Italy, he has an impressive CV with teaching stints at Yale, Cambridge and Sorbonne.

Di Maio had presented Conte as part of his team of ministers ahead of the March 4 general election, putting him in charge of simplifying the country's infamous bureaucracy.

Andrea Roventini, a 41-year-old economist teaching at the University of Pisa, has also been touted as another contender, along with Paolo Savona, 81.

Minister for industry between 1993-94, Savona was staunchly opposed to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty which, in the M5S-League programme, is cited as the moment the EU went off track.

- 'Playing with fire' -

Never afraid of a long shot, former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who is upset with his right-wing ally Salvini, has also offered himself up as future premier.

Following a recent court ruling, the ageing billionaire is once again legally allowed to hold public office and has expressed his discontent with the coalition programme, especially the strict measures against conflict of interests in parliament which he sees as directly targeting his media empire.

"Salvini never spoke on behalf of the right-wing coalition, but only on his own behalf and on behalf of the League," he said on Friday evening.

People gather at the stand of the far-right League to approve a programme which turns its back on au...
People gather at the stand of the far-right League to approve a programme which turns its back on austerity measures
MIGUEL MEDINA, AFP

Berlusconi said his Forza Italia party would present a "reasonable and scrutinising opposition" to the new coalition and suggested he could run the government if Salvini decided to ditch M5S.

Mattarella must agree to the parties' nominee before they can seek parliament's approval for their government.

The president will also examine the new M5S-League joint programme, overwhelmingly approved over the weekend in a public non-binding vote.

The 58-page programme does not mention a unilateral exit from the eurozone unlike previous versions leaked to the media. But it rejects post-financial crisis austerity policies and features hardline immigration and security proposals.

Berlusconi has also offered himself up as future premier
Berlusconi has also offered himself up as future premier
Tiziana FABI, AFP/File

The document's costly financial measures and eurosceptic tone have got the financial markets worried.

The Milan Stock Exchange opened down by nearly two percent Monday, while the spread -- the difference between the Italian and German 10-year borrowing rates -- has gained more than 50 points in less than a week, to 182 points.

The League's bullish Salvini has responded forcefully to any criticism of the coalition's economic policy.

On Monday after a German politician warned the populists were "playing with fire" with Italy's finances, Salvini tweeted:

"Let him deal with Germany, and we'll take care of what is good for Italy."

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