Italy's Five Star Says Rivals Must Back Its Government Team

(Bloomberg) -- Luigi Di Maio, leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, insisted political rivals should support the government he presented before the March 4 elections and said he wants other parties to bring him their policy proposals.

“The elections were a slap in the face for the old way of doing politics,” Di Maio told reporters in Rome after his party emerged as the biggest single party but still almost 90 seats short of a majority in the lower house.

Italy's Five Star Says Rivals Must Back Its Government Team

Di Maio, 31, said Five Star wouldn’t consider joining a broad government of national unity -- an idea that’s been floated as a short-term solution if the political deadlock persists.

Competing with Di Maio to form a government is a center-right alliance that includes League leader Matteo Salvini and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. They have already reached out to potential allies within the center-left Democratic Party. Di Maio has insisted he appeals to all political parties in asking them to back a Five Star government on its priority reforms.

‘Popular Will’

“We’re not available to betray the popular will: when the citizens voted for Five Star, they voted for a candidate for prime minister, a team and a program,” Di Maio said. He appealed for proposals “on measures and not on ministry jobs.”

“Up to now I haven’t seen even one proposal,” he said.

Di Maio began his remarks by seeking to reassure and project a moderate image, amid concerns from analysts and Italy’s European Union partners that a populist administration would weigh on the country’s feeble recovery and on the euro area.

“I challenge anyone to demonstrate we had an extremist position,” he said. “I did my campaign saying it was no longer the time to leave the euro, and that Five Star didn’t want to leave the EU.” He added that he intends to stick to that position, and that the EU limit on a budget deficit of 3 percent of gross domestic product should be reviewed or overshot. “Changes can be made by talking to Brussels, not against Brussels,” he said.

Other parties must show “responsibility” because problems like Italy’s huge public debt and unemployment “don’t wait for party quarrels.” Di Maio reprimanded outgoing finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan, saying he “was very irresponsible in dragging Italian issues to Brussels.” Padoan said earlier Tuesday that he told counterparts at a meeting in Brussels the future looked uncertain in Italy due to the election outcome.

“It was almost a provocation, as if he were saying ‘now I’m going into opposition, I poison the wells’,” Di Maio said.

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