Friday, 19 October, 2018

Italy's populist parties refuel talks to form government

Giuseppe Conte is a lawyer by trade Image Giuseppe Conte was expected to become Italian PM
Elsie Buchanan | 31 May, 2018, 19:14

After the president blocked Savona's appointment, Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio called on parliament to impeach the president.

President Sergio Mattarella had vetoed the parties' choice of a eurosceptic as economy minister, prompting the Five Star Movement and far-right League party to accuse the president of betraying voters and to drop their plan to take power.

Italy searched for a last-minute exit from nearly three months of political turmoil on Wednesday, with its biggest party looking to make a renewed attempt to form a coalition government with the right-wing League, a source said. He called for the president's impeachment.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen joined in the outrage of the Italian populists, accusing the president of a "coup d'etat", while leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said that it was "time for more elections and bigger votes".

Mr Mattarella, however, won unusual praise from France's president, Emmanuel Macron.

"It is hard because. the people who want to sort out problems affecting everyday citizens have their hands tied by stronger political forces", said retired Rome resident Mauro Ciarpagnini, adding that the President should not have rejected Mr Savona. While the president's approval is often perceived as pro-forma in Italy, there have been a few cases when the head of state refused to sign off on an appointment.

The two parties' approved nominee for prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, stepped aside over the decision.

Since the March 4 elections in Italy, day-to-day governance is still in the hands of outgoing prime minister Paolo Gentiloni.

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These, investors suspect, could become a de facto referendum on what future Italy, a founding member of what is now the European Union, will have in the bloc.

"The uncertainty over our position has alarmed investors and savers both in Italy and overseas", the president said. "If we want to discuss it, then we should do so in a serious fashion".

Economic analyst Mario La Torre concurred that the official positions staked out by the League and 5-Stars were not all that euroskeptic or different from previous governments that have pressed for a better financial deal for Italy from Brussels.

Support for Five Star Movement appeared to hold steady at about 32.6 per cent. "I don't know how we get away from that now, given the scale of the financial implications", Kit Juckes, chief foreign exchange strategist at Societe Generale, told the Wall Street Journal. Many observers worry that they will increase their combined majority in a new election.

There were also small indications that the populists would try to assure markets that they were not planning any big moves to try to hasten an Italian exit out of the euro, a fear that roiled markets this week. Italian sovereign bonds also found a stronger demand: the 2-year yield fell to 1%, compared to 2.8% two days ago, while the 10-year one eased to 2.68%, compared to 3.43%.

European bank stocks were among the hardest hit, with Italy's Unicredit and Spain's Santander down by more than 5 percent, but USA banks were also hit.

Savona has frequently advocated that Italy leave the euro, describing the single currency in a recent book as a "German cage."

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