Italian parties trade blows as talks fail
Italy's long-time rivals, the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party, blamed each other as talks to form a government risked collapsing and throwing the country back on the road to early elections.
The bitter recriminations traded by the two parties suggest that even if an agreement is reached, Italy's future government will be hobbled by the constant skirmishes that marred the previous Five Star-League administration.
Negotiations, which ran into the early hours of yesterday, stalled on who will hold key Cabinet positions. Five Star said it won't resume negotiations unless the current prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, is formally accepted as the head of the incoming government.
The Democrats countered that the problem is Luigi Di Maio's "personal ambitions".
He is seeking the posts of deputy premier and interior minister, mirroring the role currently held by League leader Matteo Salvini, they say. Five Star denied Mr Di Maio wants to be interior minister.
The row casts a shadow over President Sergio Mattarella's talks with parties.
Mr Mattarella wants a definitive answer on success or failure by the time he meets Five Star and Democratic leaders this afternoon. He will then decide to appoint a new premier if there is a viable majority in parliament, or dissolve parliament, setting up elections for as early as November.
Mr Mattarella has demanded that any proposed coalition must have a solid parliamentary majority and a policy agenda lasting until the end of the current legislature in 2023.
Initial progress in talks had fuelled optimism that the two groups could reach a deal, but "arrived at nothing".