Italy’s Renzi Could Back a New Government to Avoid Elections
(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s former premier Matteo Renzi, who triggered the collapse of Italy’s government, said he wants a new cabinet soon to avoid new elections.
Renzi prompted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s resignation by pulling his tiny Italy Alive party out of the ruling coalition, but he left the door ajar for Conte to return after meeting with President Sergio Mattarella, who’s responsible for choosing a new premier-designate.
“Going to elections in this phase would be an error for Italy and for Italians,” Renzi told reporters at the presidential palace in Rome. “We need a government quickly.”
Renzi added that during the meeting with the president he did not mention Conte, telling reporters that his priority was talking about issues rather than “who should be in the driver’s seat.”
Conte will have to defuse what’s become a toxic rivalry with Renzi if he’s to have any chance of being asked to forge his third cabinet. While he has the backing of the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party, he’ll need broader support to ensure a majority, especially in the Senate.
By sticking to his position that he won’t veto anyone for the premiership, Renzi improved Conte’s chances of forging his third government in four years.
Still, internal party divisions make the path to a return more complicated for the 56-year-old premier, who was plucked from obscurity in 2018 to lead a populist government and has since moved to strongly pro-European positions. Up to a dozen Five Star senators could abandon their party if its leaders cut a deal with Renzi, according to officials who asked not to be named on confidential deliberations.
Early elections are still an unlikely scenario, however, with the Democrats in particular ready to switch to another figure to lead a new government if Conte fails rather than face a new vote, the officials said.
Mattarella will end the current round of consultations Friday evening and may appoint a premier-designate as soon as Saturday, or possibly opt for a second round of talks.
The president could also offer an “exploratory mandate” to a politician, possibly lower-house speaker Roberto Fico, who’d be tasked with further sounding out parties to see if they can come together to form a majority, Italian media reported on Friday.
The political infighting is being played out against a grim backdrop of the pandemic, a faltering vaccination campaign and a recession.
Conte’s attempt to recruit centrist, pro-European lawmakers, especially in the upper house, suffered a setback on Thursday when Senator Luigi Vitali of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party reversed course after saying the day before he’d back Conte.
Possible alternatives to Conte range from Democrat leader Nicola Zingaretti to technocratic figures like Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Marta Cartabia, a former head of the constitutional court. Newspaper have also speculated on a return of ex-Premier Paolo Gentiloni, who now serves as the EU’s economy chief in Brussels.
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