Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star party and the main centre-left opposition PD are struggling to break a logjam over who could lead a new government as a deadline to avoid early elections draws near.
The two parties kicked off talks on Friday to find common ground for a new government after the ruling coalition of 5-Star and right-wing League collapsed last week, forcing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to resign.
But progress has been slow, held up by wrangling over the name of a leader, and Italian president Sergio Mattarella wants to see real signs of progress before opening a new round of consultations on Tuesday.
According to Sunday’s Il Messaggero, Mattarella is worried about wasting time and if there is no real progress by Monday evening then early elections would be the only way forward.
Without an agreement on a new coalition Mattarella would name a caretaker government to run the country up to a new vote, a source close to the president said.
But on Sunday, as PD leaders met in Rome to hammer out their programme for the talks, the 5-Star reiterated its demand Conte be reinstated as prime minister, drawing the ire of the PD which has put forward the name of 5-Star lawmaker Roberto Fico.
A source close to the PD said the party was vexed and upset by the “continuous ultimatums” laid down by 5-Star.
Earlier on Sunday a source said Fico was happy where he was as president of Italy’s lower house of parliament, signaling his unwillingness to consider the role.
“It looks almost as if the 5-Star is fishing for a no. In any case as of this afternoon an early vote looks slightly more likely,” said Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of polling and political analysis firm Youtrend.
5-Star support has slumped over the last year and it does not want a return to the polls, but it has warned the PD that it should not push too hard.
An opinion poll in Sunday’s daily Il Sole 24 Ore showed that 16.6% of respondents supported 5-Star, compared to the 32% support it won in last year’s general election, while 24% supported the PD.
A deal between 5-Star and the PD would give Italy a more moderate, Europe-friendly government.
The PD has also expressed worries 5-Star may be tempted to reopen channels with the League, which has shown signs of regretting its move to scupper the government two weeks ago.
But on Saturday Conte, who has continued to serve in a caretaker capacity, said the “political season” with the League was over and done with.