Italy’s president urges estranged coalition partners to reconcile

Rome, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- Italian President Sergio Mattarella pointed Friday to an incipient rapprochement among elements of the coalition government that collapsed at the start of this week and he asked the speaker of the lower house of parliament to mediate talks aimed at reconstituting that administration.

“The prospect of a political majority among the groups of the preceding government has been noted,” he said after days of consultations with leaders of all of the parties represented in parliament.

Mattarella assigned to the leader of the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico, the task of promoting a reconciliation that would allow Giuseppe Conte to remain as prime minister amid the twin crises of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession.

Covid-19 has claimed more than 87,000 lives in Italy and the number of confirmed cases stands at 2.52 million, while the effect of pandemic lockdowns is estimated to have shrunk gross domestic product by roughly 10 percent.

Conte resigned Tuesday, acknowledging that the administration no longer had a working majority following the departure from the coalition of former Premier Matteo Renzi’s centrist Italy Alive (IV) party.

Fico is a prominent figure in the reformist 5-Star Movement (M5S), the largest component in the coalition, which also comprises the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and the leftist LeU.

The lower house speaker is supposed to let Mattarella know by next Tuesday whether the fracture in the coalition can be repaired.

The president’s initiative came after both Renzi and M5S began to signal a desire to patch up the quarrel.

“We have expressed to him our willingness to talk with whoever is willing to provide responses to the country,” M5S chairman Vito Crimi said Friday after meeting with Mattarella at Quirinale Palace.

Crimi went on to speak of a “collaborative spirit for a political government based on the forces of the majority that have worked together during this year-and-a-half.”

Renzi, who split from the PD in September 2019 to form IV, said Thursday that he was open to resurrecting the coalition, provided the other parties were willing to agree on an ambitious agenda.

Despite the conciliatory noises, M5S continues to insist on Conte’s remaining as prime minister, reflecting their suspicion that Renzi’s chief motive in provoking the split in the coalition was to enlarge his own role in the government.

And the leader of the “purist” wing of M5S, Alessandro Di Battista, said that a reconciliation with Renzi would be “a great political and historic error.”

The biggest factor militating in favor of a deal is opposition to holding early elections, as demanded by the right-wing parties that polls show would likely pick up the most seats.

Renzi is demanding changes to Conte’s plans for how to use 220 million euros ($267.4 million) in aid from the European Union’s Recovery Fund.

More fundamentally, Renzi has pushed for Italy to tap the 37 billion euros in loans available under the European Stability Mechanism, an option rejected by M5S. EFE gsm/dr

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