Italy's Five Star Pushes Democrats to Start Government Talks

(Bloomberg) -- The anti-establishment Five Star Movement pressured the divided Democratic Party to start government negotiations, saying that Italy should hold new elections if the two sides fail to reach a deal.

“We’re available to sit at the table to negotiate a contract,” Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio said he told Roberto Fico, the lower house speaker who has been asked by President Sergio Mattarella to find out if Five Star and the Democratic Party, or PD, can govern together.

Di Maio told reporters his priorities for the talks were providing a “citizen’s income” for the poor, boosting jobs including those for the young, and ending conflicts of interest -- which would target ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and his media involvement. “If we don’t succeed, we go back and vote,” he said.

But the fractious PD bought more time to decide, with acting leader Maurizio Martina saying after his earlier meeting with speaker Fico, a member of Five Star, that the party would discuss on May 3 whether to start talks. Martina said he saw “important steps forward” while cautioning there were “difficulties and differences with Five Star.”

Fico said his mission as a mediator had ended “in a positive way, with a dialogue between Five Star and the PD,” after reporting back to Mattarella.

Divided Delegation

Even the PD delegation which met Fico is divided. Martina is pushing for talks, while PD chairman Matteo Orfini is against a Five Star-PD government. Ex-premier Matteo Renzi, who stepped down as PD leader after the March vote, has so far opposed the idea of negotiations and commands a majority among the 209 lawmakers and senior officials who will discuss the issue next week.

“Martina has rushed ahead, he’s gone too far,” Sandro Gozi, junior minister for European affairs and a Renzi ally, told newspaper Corriere della Sera. “As things stand, I really don’t think there will be the numbers in the leadership for a government with Five Star.”

If Five Star and the PD fail to seal a deal, Mattarella’s options include appealing to all parties to back a short-lived “president’s government” led by a technocrat, or triggering fresh elections in the fall. Di Maio has said his talks with the euroskeptic League are over, but League leader Matteo Salvini has offered to resume them.

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