April 6, 2018 / 3:59 PM / 18 days ago

Italy's right to present united front in government talks

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s three main rightist parties said on Friday they will go together to see the president in government talks next week, showing a united front in the face of moves to divide them in coalition negotiations.

Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi speaks to the media during the second day of consultations with the Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, Italy, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Following last month’s inconclusive election, President Sergio Mattarella wrapped up an initial round of consultations on Thursday and promised to meet party leaders again shortly to try to overcome the gridlock and put together a new government.

The March 4 vote saw the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement emerge as the largest single party, while a rightist alliance, including the League, Brothers of Italy and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) group won the biggest bloc of seats.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio has said he would be prepared to form a government with the far-right League, but has refused to countenance any accord with Berlusconi, who has been convicted of tax fraud, saying his brand of politics was a failure.

In the first round of consultations, the three rightist leaders saw Mattarella separately and there has been widespread speculation that League leader Matteo Salvini will eventually ditch Berlusconi to forge a pact with the 5-Star.

But in an effort to show their unity, the rightist trio announced on Friday they would see Mattarella together, implying they would present the same message to the head of state.

League party leader Matteo Salvini leaves after a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella during the second day of consultations at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, Italy, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

“The only government that I see possible is that of a united (right) together with the 5-Star Movement,” Salvini told state television Rai on Friday.

Despite their decision to see Mattarella together, sharp differences still clearly exist in the rightist camp. While Salvini has expressed a readiness to link up with 5-Star, Berlusconi has repeatedly denounced the anti-system movement.

“We are not open to government solutions in which envy and social hate, poverty politics and judicial witch hunts are the cornerstone,” he said on Thursday — catchwords he used throughout the election campaign to denounce 5-Star.

His comments suggested that the only feasible coalition in his mind was an alliance with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), even though this group is refusing any idea of returning to government after suffering a heavy defeat last month.

Mattarella has not yet set a date for the new talks, saying only they would take place sometime next week.

Political sources have told Reuters that any deal might have to wait until next month, saying party leaders might not want to make potentially painful compromises ahead of regional elections slated for the end of April.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Catherine Evans

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