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Five Star Leader Rejects "Neutral" Government, Demands 2nd Vote In July

Update (1:40 pm ET): The Five Star Movement isn’t backing down just yet.

M5S leader Di Maio is pushing back against President Mattarella’s appeal for the parties with the most parliamentary seats to support a “neutral” prime minister and government to run the country until fresh elections can be held early next year.

Instead, Di Maio is sticking with the party’s initial request to hold a second election as early as July.

In a tweet, the five-star leader said “no one is responsible for a neutral government. Same as a technical government. Go for the vote in July!.”

A twitter account associated with a Milanese chapter of the Northern League said it also opposed the “neutral” prime minister, saying the last time there was a technical government, it gave money away to troubled Italian lender Monte dei Paschi while repeatedly hiking taxes.

Meanwhile, Forza Italia, the League’s largest coalition partner, said it wouldn’t immediately rule out Mattarella’s suggestion, saying it would prefer to hold elections in the fall.

That didn’t take long at all.

* * *

After two months of failed negotiations between the Five Star Movement, the Democratic Party and the center-right coalition (which includes both the far-right Northern League as well as Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia), Italian President Sergio Mattarella has offered the first sign that Italy is likely headed for another election after what was billed as a final push to form a coalition ended in failure on Monday.

During remarks to reporters on Monday, Mattarella called on Italy’s political parties to back a neutral government that would govern the country until the end of December, when new elections would be held, according to Italian newspaper Il Sole 24.

Mattarella

The technocratic government would govern until an agreement is reached, or until the new elections are held, and would step down if an agreement is reached before the election.

Still, the news is a blow to the Five Star Movement (M5S), which won the largest share of any single political party during the March election (though the center-right coalition came out with a plurality). Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio has said he’d be willing to consider somebody else for prime minister, and Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant Lega Nord has rejected the idea of a non-partisan prime minister and called for elections in July, a demand that Five Star has seconded. 

Mattarella said elections in the summer are possible, but that it would be difficult for people to vote. Should Italian politicians reject the technocratic solution, Mattarella said elections would likely be held in the fall.

Of course, Italy’s Five Star Movement, which has grown from a semi-serious political party founded by comedian Beppe Grillo into a national political force, has only seen its popularity increase since the March vote, according to polling data.

We speculated earlier that talks between Five Star and the League broke down because of League leader Matteo Salvini and his enormous ego.

Di Maio, whose anti-corruption movement won around 32 percent of the vote, said he would give up his claim on the premiership if the League agreed to enter into a coalition with them — as long as they get rid of their scandal-tainted coalition ally, Silvio Berlusconi.

M5S has rejected the Northern League’s overtures because they don’t approve of the League’s coalition partner, Silvio Berlusconi, a former prime minister of Italy, who leads the more moderate Forza Italia. Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud in 2013.

But Salvini, whose coalition won 37.5% of the national vote compared with M5S’s 33%, turned down Di Maio’s offer. However, the League alone received just 22% of the vote.

Mattarella also warned that calling for another round of elections could harm markets, as investors worried about worsening political instability in one of Europe’s most indebted countries.

In Italy, the president is the official head of state and the steward of the country’s government. It is not generally viewed as a political position.

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