Italy's League Is Said to Reach Out to Renzi's Party for Votes

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(Bloomberg) -- The euroskeptic League of Matteo Salvini is reaching out to lawmakers from Italy’s center-left Democratic Party to seek support for a broad governing alliance, according to senior League officials.

Envoys of the anti-migrant League, the main party in the center-right coalition which will form the biggest bloc in the next parliament, are holding informal talks with PD dissidents, according to two League officials who declined to be named discussing strategy. Spokesmen for Salvini and the PD didn’t respond to requests for comment.

PD leader Matteo Renzi is facing a backlash from within the ranks as he insists the party should go into opposition after the worst election result in its history. But his critics say they don’t have that luxury with a divided legislature and a troubled country in need of a government.

While the center-right coalition has the largest number of lawmakers, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement is the biggest single party and is challenging Salvini’s claim that he has a mandate to govern. Both are looking to the PD for help.

Around 35 to 40 PD lawmakers, including some opposed to a pact with Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, might be prepared to back a center-right program led by Salvini or another League figure, one of the officials said. That would still leave Salvini at least 10 votes short.

Some members of the League are also floating the idea that Salvini might step aside in favor of a more moderate figure who some center-left politicians could stomach, even if they may prefer to stay out of a formal coalition, one of the officials said. President Sergio Mattarella, who gets to nominate the prime minister, is seeking a figure who can guarantee a majority and is prepared to wait for the parties to sort themselves out.

“Governing is our objective,” Salvini said Wednesday. “We are working on the team and, with respect for the choices of the president, we are ready to meet the political forces represented in parliament.”

Policy Horsetrading

The League would be open to considering some policies the PD has proposed. While offering Italian citizenship to children born to immigrants is a no-go, the two groups could find common ground on the League’s proposals for a flat tax, job-creation measures and welfare reform, one of the officials said.

Both officials said a deal could involve making a sympathetic PD lawmaker speaker of one of the houses of parliament, adding the fate of the approach hangs on how the PD emerges from its disarray. Renzi is due to meet party leaders on March 12 to confirm his plans to resign.

Acting Justice Minister Andrea Orlando, leader of a minority faction in the PD, told Radio Capital on Thursday that an agreement between the PD and Five Star is “impossible.”

If the League fails to drum up support for a government, there would be little alternative but to hold repeat elections in October, said one of the League officials. Five Star is unlikely to find enough support, he added.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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