Berlusconi Praises Partner Salvini Amid Rift in Italian Right

(Bloomberg) -- Silvio Berlusconi sought to mollify League chief Matteo Salvini after a rift opened up between the two Italian center-right party leaders.

The ex-premier and Forza Italia party head told newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday that he sees no danger of an imminent deal between the euroskeptic League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

"Salvini has behaved correctly towards us up to now," he said. "I am absolutely certain, also because of the latest contacts we’ve had, that he will continue to speak and act in the name of the entire center-right."

The three-party conservative alliance, which also includes the far-right Brothers of Italy party, has been holding negotiations on forming a government together. However, Salvini is increasingly pushing for an accord with Five Star despite the latter’s veto on any role for Berlusconi. The right-wing alliance led Five Star in the March 4 general elections, but both fell short of a majority.

Right-wing leaders also disagree over whether to include the Democratic Party, or PD, of current premier Paolo Gentiloni in talks, with Berlusconi having said he favors the party’s inclusion. PD leaders have so far said that they plan to go into opposition and don’t expect to take part in the current government talks.

"As far as the PD goes, we’re not seeking a political dialog with them and I don’t see any signs from them that they would be available," Berlusconi said. "So that’s not even an issue."

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella is expected to announce as early as Monday his next move in the seven-week search for a government, possibly appointing Roberto Fico, speaker of the lower house, as a new mediator to find out if a working majority is possible.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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