Italian govt deal close as populists, far-right continue talks

Rome (AFP) –


Italian anti-establishment and far-right leaders met on Friday to hash out a deal over a joint government that could be announced as soon as Sunday.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the nationalist League, told reporters after meeting head of Five Star Movement (M5S) Luigi Di Maio at the lower house Chamber of Deputies that their aim was to reach an agreement "as soon as possible."

Di Maio then revealed upon leaving the chamber that the pair would meet in Milan on Saturday to continue talks over a "German-style" government contract, which he hopes to sign "as soon as possible."

They could report on the progress of their talks as early as Sunday to President Sergio Mattarella, who could then nominate the new prime minister on Monday. That person is unlikely to be either Salvini or Di Maio.

Italian media report that both parties agree on rolling back increases to the age of retirement, while the M5S is willing to follow the League's hardline anti-immigration policies.

Salvini and Di Maio are also willing to make compromises over their flagship policies -- the League's drastic drop in taxes and the M5S's universal basic income -- which look tricky to reconcile in the eurozone's second most indebted country.

On Thursday Di Maio's political advisor Vincenzo Spadafora emphasised the M5S's desire for Italy "to stay in the euro and in Europe," despite wanting to rediscuss "some treaties."

The EU is one of Salvini's favourite targets, with the 44-year-old making alliances across Europe with other anti-union figures like Viktor Orban and Marine La Pen.