President Mattarella proposes neutral government or new elections

M5s and Lega reject Mattarella proposal, PD gives support

Italy must either give itself a ‘neutral’ government with cross-party support that will hold office until the end of the year pending new elections in 2019 or return to the ballot box, president Sergio Mattarella has said.

His proposal came after a fresh round of talks on 7 May confirmed the impossibility of forming a majority following inconclusive general elections on 4 March.

The anti-establishment Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) and right-wing and anti-immigrant Lega – the two parties that emerged victorious from the ballot box but without winning enough seats in parliament to govern – said immediately they were opposed to the plan, making snap elections likely.

These could be held as early as July (at the time of writing the most probable date looked to be 22 July), under the same electoral law that led to a hung parliament in March and with the likelihood of a low turnout since many Italians will be away on holiday.

Should elections be postponed until the autumn they would interfere with approval of the 2019 budget law.

The centre-left Partito Democratico, which is Italy’s third biggest party despite taking a major knocking in the polls, has instead given its full backing to the plan.

So far government-formation talks have been characterised by M5S’s refusal to enter into an alliance with the Lega that also includes the latter’s centre-right coalition partner Forza Italia of ex prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Likewise, the PD has rejected the possibility of dialogue with either M5S or the centre right.

However, Mattarella has said that should the parties come to an agreement while a government of technocrats is in place this would be replaced by the new ‘political’ executive without fresh elections being held.

By Laura Clarke