Two days after Italy’s populist government collapsed, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) leader has told the president he will try to reach a deal with one of the populist parties, the Five Star Movement.
Nicola Zingaretti said Italy needed a “turning-point government” that was an alternative to the right, but not a government at any cost.
President Sergio Mattarella wants a government deal in the coming days.
Otherwise Italy faces new elections.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned in dramatic fashion in parliament on Tuesday, after one of the two populist leaders in the coalition, Matteo Salvini, pulled the plug on the government, demanding a vote of no confidence.
Mr Salvini, whose right-wing, nationalist League is leading the opinion polls, is seeking new elections, 14 months after he went into coalition with Five Star.
Will the centre-left return to power?
The head of the centre-left PD was among the first of the party leaders to visit the president on Thursday morning. His potential coalition partner, Five Star, will meet Mr Mattarella in the late afternoon.
The two parties, which until now have never seen eye to eye, have already held exploratory talks and both appear keen to find a deal.
Mr Zingaretti has come up with five conditions for Five Star to meet, including loyal membership of the European Union, giving parliament a central role and a reversal of Mr Salvini’s anti-immigration policies.
“We expressed our willingness to the president to verify the formation of a different majority,” he said, emphasising he wanted a government that brought an end to the policies and politics of the previous coalition.
The PD also wants a new prime minister to replace Mr Conte, currently acting as caretaker, and some reports suggest Italy could have its first woman leader.
The president also met the leaders of the centre-right Forza Italia party and the far-right Brothers of Italy on Thursday. Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi warned that without a centre-right majority in the next government there would have to be new elections.
Will the populists agree to rule with the centre left?
So far, the Five Star Movement appears to have agreed with the centre left that the independent law professor who headed the outgoing coalition cannot lead any prospective alliance between the two parties.
One of the sticking points for a coalition would then be who would become prime minister. Neither Mr Zingaretti nor Five Star Luigi di Maio have shown any interest in the job and attention has turned to a possible outside candidate.
More significant differences may emerge over policies:
- One of Five Star’s big ambitions is to cut the number of parliamentarians in Italy’s two houses from 950 to 605. The PD may only agree to this in conjunction with broader constitutional reform
- The two parties are also expected to have differences over Italy’s 2020 budget, which will have to comply with EU deficit rules. Italy is the third biggest economy in the eurozone but, at 132%, it has the second biggest debt in proportion to its output.
- The centre left will seek the rollback of many of the League-sponsored immigration measures that brought about the closure of ports to migrants. Although they were pushed forward by Matteo Salvini, Five Star ultimately agreed to them.
If the two parties fail to reach agreement, autumn elections appear likely, with Mr Salvini’s nationalists eyeing victory.