Row over economy minister pick threatens new Italian government

European Union - Italy's Conte fights to form team as ally threatens new vote

European Union - Italy's Conte fights to form team as ally threatens new vote

Cottarelli, 64, will meet with President Sergio Mattarella after talks between the head of state and populist parties on the cusp of forming a new government fell apart over the inclusion of eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister.

The president said that he has done "everything possible" to aid the formation of a government, but that an openly Eurosceptic economy minister ran against the parties' joint programme promise to simply "change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view". "If you want to discuss it, it should have been done openly and with a serious debate", which he noted hadn't been part of the electoral campaign.

Mattarella enraged the 5-Stars and League by vetoing their choice for economy minister on Sunday night, throwing Italy into a new round of political uncertainty more than two months after an election created a hung parliament. "Then parliament would be dissolved with elections at the beginning of 2019", Cottarelli said.

Before Conte or Mattarella had finished their meeting, far-right League leader, Matteo Salvini, insisted the only option now was to "let the Italians have their say" and hold another election, probably later this year.

Mattarella's decision sparked an unprecedented institutional crisis, with strong opposition being mounted by the 5 Star Movement and the League, which garnered more than 50 per cent of the votes in the March 4 national elections.

Michael Roth told reporters in Brussels that Italy, a founding member of the European Union, has always been a reliable and integration-friendly partner.

Demanding an immediate ballot, Salvini told followers on Facebook: "It won't be an election, it will be a referendum between Italy and those on the outside who want us to be a servile, enslaved nation on our knees".

One analyst said it was an attempt to try to strongarm Mattarella and to send a populist message in defiance of the presidential palace as an Italian institution.

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"In the absence of confidence, the government would resign immediately and its main function would be the management of ordinary affairs until elections are held after the month of August", said Cottarelli.

The League and 5-Star have said Savona should not be judged on his opinions, but on his credentials.

League leader Matteo Salvini said that Cottarella was a "Mister Nobody" who "represents financial institutions", while the head of Five Star Luigi Di Maio laughed off his chances of ever gaining the endorsement of a parliament in which his and Salvini's parties command a majority.

Critics, including Luigi Di Maio, the M5S leader, were quick to criticise Mattarella, accusing him of an abuse of power and calling for his impeachment.

"We will ask parliament to charge Mattarella with high treason because he has acted under foreign pressure", Brothers of Italy chief Giorgia Meloni said on La7 television channel.

"We need to keep cool".

The incumbent president has been supported by head of the center-right Forza Italia party, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as well as the Democratic Party.

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