Italy's Five Star leader asks for 'a few more days' to form govt

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Rome (AFP)

A new Italian government was put on hold on Monday after the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement asked President Sergio Mattarella for a few more days to form a coalition with the far-right League.

Luigi Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini were expected to announce a "government agreement" and a nominee for prime minister following negotiations over the weekend, but on Monday Di Maio revealed that more work was needed on the deal and that no names would be made public.

"We are writing what will be the government programme for the next five years and it's very important for us to finalise it as best as possible, so we have asked the president for a few more days to definitively close the discussion," Di Maio told reporters after meeting with Mattarella.

Di Maio, 31, announced that the finalised deal would be put to an online vote for Five Star members.

Talks between Salvini and Mattarella are now under way at the president's office.

Italy has been in political deadlock since an inconclusive March 4 election, which was dominated by concerns over a struggling economy, the refugee crisis and illegal immigration.

Five Star and the League have been negotiating a power-sharing deal since last Wednesday, when Salvini's right-wing coalition partner, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, gave the green light for the pair to form a government without his Forza Italia party.

According to reports, the parties have agreed on rolling back increases to the age of retirement, while Five Star 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 Five Star's universal basic income -- which look tricky to reconcile in one of the eurozone's most indebted countries.

The League and Five Star must also agree on representation from the parties in the new government.

Salvini's League won 17 percent of votes in March, but it was part of a right-wing alliance including Berlusconi's Forza Italia that garnered 37 percent of the vote.

Five Star is by far Italy's largest single party after winning nearly 33 percent of the vote.