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‘Neutral Government’ Opposed; July Polling Likely



ROME — Italy looks likely to return to the polls again this year, possibly as early as July, after the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the League said they were not in favor of President Sergio Mattarella’s proposal for a “neutral government” to take over until December.

Mattarella made the proposal after a third round of formal political consultations failed to throw up a way out of the deadlock that has followed Italy’s inconclusive March 4 general election.

But the M5S, the biggest single party in parliament, and the anti-migrant, Eurosceptic League, the lead group in the center-right coalition that is the overall bloc that won most votes, have both indicated they will not vote in favor of giving confidence to a “neutral” executive.

Mattarella said that if the parties failed to support the neutral government it would be necessary to hold elections before the end of the year, while stressing that this would be problematic.

M5S leader Luigi DiMaio and League chief Matteo Salvini are in favor of an election taking place on July 8 if it is not possible to reach a deal to form a political government.

But sources said this could be too soon for technical reasons and July 22 was a more likely date if a summer election is held.

Mattarella noted that Italy had always avoiding holding elections in the middle of summer-holiday season to make sure people have the opportunity to vote. He said that the voting in the autumn, on the other hand, would cause problems for the approval of the next budget law and commented on the need to avoid a rise in value-added tax set to kick in unless alternative financial coverage is found and avert the threat of financial instability. Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI), a part of the center-right alliance, said it was in favor of an autumn election.

The only big group to say it would support a neutral government is the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which is in crisis and badly hit by internal divisions after slumping to its worst-ever showing in the March vote.

Di Maio said that it is League chief Salvini’s fault if Italy has to return to the ballot box.

“The only thing I asked him was to drop Berlusconi, but he preferred [with stick with] Berlusconi,” Di Maio told RTL 102.5 radio.

“He will respond to history and to the Italian people, especially at the next election, because, if we are voting again, it is because he chose restoration rather than revolution.”

Di Maio also reiterated the M5S’s opposition to President Sergio Mattarella’s proposal for a “neutral” government, saying it would have “a similar effect” to the technocrat executive of former premier Mario Monti from 2011 to 2013.

Salvini, meanwhile, criticized the proposal made by Mattarella for Italy to be ruled by a “neutral” government until December. “A ‘neutral’ government to make hundreds of appointments, to award a hundred posts in [public] bodies and boards, without any popular support, would be true mockery,” Salvini said. “We either have a political government, with honors and obligations, or an immediate vote.”

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