Italy's Salvini Said to Be First in Line For Premier Mandate

(Bloomberg) -- Matteo Salvini of the euroskeptic League may be asked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella to try to form a government next week, according to a senior state official.

Mattarella, who will hold a second round of meetings with party leaders on Thursday and Friday, could act to break the political deadlock if no progress is made by early next week, said the official, who declined to be named discussing confidential deliberations.

Mattarella could give a preliminary mandate to Salvini as head of the biggest party in the center-right alliance, which got the most votes in the inconclusive March 4 elections, the official said. Salvini is a more likely choice than Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, according to the official. The center right had the most votes as a coalition, while Five Star is the single biggest party. Neither has a majority.

Salvini has said he would not accept an unclear mandate. “I’ll do it if there is a possibility of giving a government to the Italians in brief period of time,” Salvini told Radio 105 last month.

The head of state, whose task it is to appoint a premier, could alternatively give a so-called “exploratory mandate” to one of the parliamentary speakers or another figure, asking them to establish whether a working majority is possible -- that personality would not then become premier, the official said. Mattarella could also hold a third round of talks.

The quest for a government has stalled with Di Maio insisting on the premiership and ruling out any role for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. Di Maio is seeking to form a government with either the League or with the center-left Democratic Party, which has decided to go into opposition.

Salvini has pledged to ally with Five Star only if his center-right allies agree. Five Star sees Berlusconi, who is banned from holding public office because of a 2013 tax-fraud conviction, as a symbol of the political corruption it fights against.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.