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Row over finance minister prolongs Italy standoff

31 May 2018

Premier-designate Carlo Cottarelli, a former International Monetary Fund official, was expected to submit his list of ministers to President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, two days after an attempt by two populist parties to form a government foundered on the president's rejection of their anti-euro economy minister.

Italy's Prime Minister-designate Giuseppe Conte gave up on efforts to form a government on Sunday after the president apparently rejected his pick for the economy ministry, increasing the likelihood of another election this year.

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.

President Sergio Mattarella vetoed the parties' choice of a eurosceptic as economy minister, prompting the 5-Star Movement and far-right League party to accuse him of betraying voters.

President mattarella said he could not appoint the eurosceptic paolo savona to the post, citing concern from investors at home and overseas, and tasked prime minister cottarelli with forming a government instead.

The proposed populist government collapsed after president Sergio Mattarella vetoed the nomination of a finance minister who was backed by the majority of lawmakers. "Then parliament would be dissolved with elections at the beginning of 2019", Cottarelli said.

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Yields on 10 year Italian government bonds have fallen 7.4 basis points to 2.98 today, having peaked at 3.45 yesterday.

Shortly afterwards, the president's office summoned Cottarelli, the IMF's former director of fiscal affairs, for a meeting on Monday.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker released a statement saying: "Italy's fate does not lie in the hands of the financial markets, ' and Donald Tusk, the chairman of European Union leaders" summits, called on European Union institutions to 'respect the voters.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio called on parliament to impeach the mild-mannered Mattarella.

"I accepted every proposed minister apart from the minister of the economy", Mattarella told reporters.

Savona had called the euro a "German cage" and has said Italy needs a plan to leave the single currency "if necessary".

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Mr Salvini said: "We want a date for the elections".

A former judge of Italy's constitutional court, Mattarella has refused to bow to what he saw as "diktats" from the two parties which he considered contrary to the country's interests.

Elections could benefit Salvini, however, as recent polling by IndexResearch put the League at 22%, 5 points up from its vote share in the March 4 ballot.

But as analyst Wolfango Piccoli noted early Monday that such a government risks losing mandatory confidence votes in each chamber of Parliament.

"The uncertainty over our position has alarmed investors and savers both in Italy and overseas", Mattarella said, adding: "Membership of the euro is a fundamental choice". The move earned the president praise among those who shared his concerns about Savona, as well as criticism and even threats (link in Italian) from the coalition's supporters.

He said, though, that an election at the end of July would be "disruptive" for Italian seasonal workers in particular.

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However, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, praised his Italian counterpart for fulfilling his role as the guarantor of the country's institutions with "courage and responsibility". With support for 5-Star falling about three points to 29.5 per cent, the two combined would have a majority in parliament if they chose to join forces again.

Row over finance minister prolongs Italy standoff