Italy’s League and 5-Star make ‘significant steps’ towards government deal



ROME: The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and far-right League have made “significant steps” towards forming a government, the two parties said on Thursday as Italy looked to end nine weeks of political deadlock.

The two groups, which are hostile to European Union budget restrictions and have made electoral pledges that would cost billions of euros to implement, entered into negotiations on Wednesday just as a swift return to the polls looked inevitable.

“Significant steps forward have been made on the composition of the government and on the (nomination) of a prime minister,” a joint statement said following a meeting between League leader Matteo Salvini and 5-Star chief Luigi Di Maio.

They gave no indication of who might lead the administration or who could take charge of the key ministries.

“I cannot disguise my joy and happiness that we can finally start solving Italy’s problems,” Di Maio said on Facebook.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who has the final word over the make-up of any new administration, has given the two sides until Sunday to tell him about the outcome of their talks.

“They asked us for time until Sunday and on Sunday we expect an answer,” a source at the president’s office said.

News that a deal was at hand pushed the gap between Italian benchmark bond yields and the safer German equivalent to its widest in seven weeks over fears state accounts might take a hit. Italy’s top share index fell more than 1.5 percent to its lowest level of the month.

“The prospect of having a government of two eurosceptic parties creates uncertainties… Investors may not trust such a government and fear that debt would rise,” said IG Markets analyst Vincenzo Longo.

Italy has been stuck in political limbo since an inconclusive March 4 election that saw a center-right bloc, including the anti-immigrant League, win the most seats, and the 5-Star emerge the largest single party by far.

5-Star had signaled for weeks it was ready to form a coalition with the League, but not with that party’s electoral ally, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whom it sees as a symbol of political corruption after years of scandals.

Salvini had refused to abandon Berlusconi out of loyalty to the center-right bloc, but the 81-year-old billionaire businessman finally agreed to step aside voluntarily late Wednesday, removing a major obstacle to an accord.

Even so, a government deal faces various difficulties.