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Italy 5-star party keeps option on euro referendum open

FILE PHOTO: 5-Star Movement Luigi Di Maio (C) and Giancarlo Cancelleri speak with media prior to a rally for a regional election in Palermo, Italy, November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) - The leader of Italy’s main opposition party said he was keeping the option of a referendum on the euro open in the event his party won elections and failed to convince Brussels of the need to change some of the euro zone’s economic rules.

In comments made on state TV on Sunday, Luigi Di Maio, the man widely tipped to be the candidate for prime minister of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said he wanted to negotiate concessions on EU governance.

“If we succeed, Europe will be changed and we won’t need a referendum on the euro. Otherwise we’ll ask Italians if they want to stay in or not,” he said.

Earlier this month, Di Maio told Reuters 5-Star had not totally withdrawn the idea of a referendum on the euro, but called it “a last resort” to be employed only if it was not possible to ease EU governance rules.

The comments come just weeks before parliament is expected to be dissolved ahead of elections early next year which look unlikely to produce a clear winner.

The 5-Star Movement is predicted to emerge as the largest single party in the next parliament, but it has repeatedly ruled out joining any coalition.

Italy has just introduced a new electoral system that is expected to handicap 5-Star, favoring instead mainstream political blocs.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Ralph Boulton