Sunday 15 September 2019

'What's the point of going to vote?' - parties' anger as appointment is blocked

Italy's president's Sergio Mattarella. Photo: Fabio Frustaci/ANSA via AP
Italy's president's Sergio Mattarella. Photo: Fabio Frustaci/ANSA via AP

Nick Squires

Italy's populist parties reacted with fury as attempts to form a government dramatically broke down.

Nearly three months after a general election on March 4, hopes that the country would have a government formed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the hard-right, euro-sceptic League were dashed.

The two parties, which were about to form western Europe's first populist government, wanted Paolo Savona, an economist and banker who has been highly critical of the euro, as their economy minister.

The parties won 50pc of the vote at the election and insisted their choice of cabinet ministers was an essential part of their democratic mandate.

But Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, saw otherwise, blocking Mr Savona for the economy job. As a result, Giuseppe Conte, a law professor who had been named as the coalition's prime minister, resigned after a day of tense talks with President Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome.

"Giuseppe Conte has given up the mandate to form a government, given to him on May 23," said a presidential palace official.

Professor Conte said he "gave the maximum effort, attention, to carry out this task with the full collaboration" of Five Star and the League.

Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio took to Facebook to tell his supporters he and Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, had been ready to form a government.

He even read out the full list of ministerial appointments the two leaders had put forward.

"I am very angry. You can imagine how much time we spent trying to form a government over the last 80 days," he said.

He said the coalition had been torpedoed by "the credit rating agencies" and "the financial lobbies", a reference to concern in Brussels and elsewhere at Mr Savona's appointment as economy minister.

He said the president's veto was "unacceptable", and "an institutional clash without precedent".

"What's the point of going to vote if it's the ratings agencies that decide?" he asked.

Mr Salvini of the League was also furious about the presidential veto. "We will not be blackmailed by anyone," he said in an angry speech from the city of Terni. "If a certain minister bothered Berlin, or a certain minister bothers the powerful forces that have massacred us up until now, that means it was the right minister."

Mr Savona (81) has described the common currency as a "German cage" for Italy. He has accused Berlin of trying to achieve by economic means what it failed to do with armies of stormtroopers in World War II - the domination of Europe.

He claimed Germany has "the same objective today as did Funk," a reference to Walther Funk, who served under Hitler as minister for economic affairs and was convicted as a war criminal at Nuremberg.

He has also called for a "plan B" to be drawn up to allow Italy to exit the eurozone with as little damage as possible, should that prove necessary.

President Mattarella said he refused to approve Mr Savona because the appointment would have "alarmed markets and investors, Italians and foreigners". Speaking after the dramatic collapse of the would-be coalition, he said: "Every day, the (bond) spread goes up, it raises our debt costs."

The appointment would "have probably or more likely inevitably led to the exit of Italy from the euro."

In a televised address, a sombre president said he was not to blame for the impasse, adding that he had proposed alternatives for the key position, but his suggestions had been spurned by Five Star and the League. "It is my duty to protect the savings of Italians," he said. (© Daily Telegraph)

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