Former Italian PM warns against Five Star coalition

Rome (AFP) –


Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi urged his centre-left Democratic Party on Monday not to form a government pact with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, leaving the country's political future in the balance almost two months after inconclusive elections.

Renzi, who stepped down as premier but still holds influence in the party, appeared to reject moves by Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio to form a coalition accord before talks have even begun.

Asked whether Di Maio could become prime minister by Italy's public RAI TV channel, Renzi sarcastically responded: "Di Maio is the only one who seems to think so."

"The two Koreas talk, so why not the Democratic Party and Five Star? It's good to meet each other. But a vote of confidence in a Di Maio government? No."

The political limbo in Italy comes after a March 4 vote that saw a right-wing alliance led by the far-right League party win the most seats but Five Star became the largest single party. The Democratic Party finished third.

Di Maio, who has his sights on becoming Italy's next prime minister, blamed Renzi for blocking a potential deal.

"The Democratic Party can not free itself of Renzi, even when he drove their party to a historic low. Today we have the proof that it is still Renzi and his oversized ego who decide everything," the 31-year-old posted on Facebook.

"I never thought it would be easy to form a government, but I did not think it would be impossible," he added.

Blaming the other parties for refusing to engage in talks, Di Maio called for early elections in June, in a move widely viewed as unrealistic.

A June vote is unlikely due to time limits imposed by the Constitution and because other party leaders are not in favour.

- Deadlock -

Di Maio's attempt to win support from the Democratic Party came after the collapse of inital consultations between Five Star and the League, led by Matteo Salvini.

Both Di Maio and Salvini refused to budge over Salvini's right-wing coalition partner, former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Di Maio had demanded that Salvini dump the 81-year-old media magnate, who Five Star condemn as a symbol of political corruption, but Salvini refused to break up a coalition that came first in the elections.

Results of regional elections in the north eastern Friuli Venezia Giulia region, announced Monday, appeared to galvanise the centre-right coalition.

With 95 percent of votes counted, the right had clinched 57.2 percent, while Five Star was on just 11.7 percent, behind even the Democratic Party.

"We are going to govern (the country), I am ready!" wrote a rejoicing Salvini, on his Facebook.

Berlusconi wrote the results "confirm that we are the leading coalition in the country, in sync with what voters want and it's just one more reason to entrust us with national governance".

The only option currently available to the right-wing coalition, however, is to form a minority government.

"The idea for the right-wing coalition would be to obtain a mandate from Italian President Sergio Mattarella to try to create a minority government, based on the abstention of other parties rather than a confidence vote, as was the case for former premier Giulio Andreotti in 1976," said an editorial in Italian daily La Stampa.

The president could also seek to form a "caretaker" government to focus on electoral reform, to avoid a similar deadlock in the future.