May 21, 2018 / 8:28 AM / 10 months ago

Italy's 5-Star, League to seek president's backing on govt, PM

* Govt programme includes major spending increase

* Bond yields rise sharply on fears of spending spree

* If president gives blessing, govt could be seated this week

By Steve Scherer

ROME, May 21 (Reuters) - Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and League parties will seek the backing of the president on Monday for a prime minister to lead a government whose plans to jack up spending were roiling financial markets.

Eleven weeks after an inconclusive election, the rival parties are poised to put forward a prime minister whose programme — agreed last week — calls for billions of euros in tax cuts, additional spending on welfare for the poor, and a roll-back of pension reforms.

While the premier’s name has not been confirmed, Italian media say the leading candidate is a little-known university professor, Giuseppe Conte, who is not a lawmaker, but was proposed as a possible minister by 5-Star before the vote.

President Sergio Mattarella has the final say on who becomes premier. If he should give his blessing after the meetings, which start at 1530 GMT, the parties could put a Cabinet together rapidly and hold confidence votes in parliament later this week.

Italian bond yields rose sharply on Monday on fears the government will go on a spending spree that will increase an already huge debt pile — worth more than 130 percent of output — and put it on a collision course with European Union fiscal rules.

Markets were also hammered last week when the two parties presented their government plans.

But Italians appear to favour the tie-up. Some 60 percent of Italians are in favour of a 5-Star/League coalition government, a Demos & Pi poll published on Sunday showed. More than 80 percent of 5-Star and League voters back it, the poll said.


The likely prime minister candidate, the 54-year-old Conte, was put forward before the election as 5-Star’s possible pick as public administration minister. He is seen as a compromise candidate, a technocrat who can balance the demands of the rival parties.

Conte has worked as a lawyer as well as an academic, and has studied for brief spells at Yale, New York University, Cambridge and other foreign universities.

Though not in the top post, 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and League chief Matteo Salvini are seen in the Cabinet, according to newspapers.

Di Maio is tapped to become the labour and welfare minister to ensure the passage of the movement’s cornerstone election promise, a universal income for the poor.

Salvini, on the other hand, is seen taking over the Interior Ministry, which handles immigration issues. The arrival of more than 600,000 boat migrants on Italians shores over four years fueled the anti-immigrant League’s popularity, catapulting it over Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia on the right.

More than one name circulated for the key economy ministry portfolio. Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old economist and former industry minister, was mentioned the most, but Salvini’s top adviser Giancarlo Giorgetti could also get the job, newspapers said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Richard Balmforth

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