Italy’s populist parties to name PM

Italy’s populist parties to name PM

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ROME: Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, will meet two populist party leaders on Monday, after the pair agreed a deal on most of their coalition programme.

One key element that the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League are set to decide is who will become prime minister.

Luigi Di Maio of Five Star does not want the job, nor does The League’s Matteo Salvini.

But it is the president’s job to appoint the government and its leader.

Mr Mattarella has the final say on who runs Italy and he set a Sunday deadline for the pair to bring to an end the deadlock that has hung over Italian politics since a general election were held on 4 March.

The parties’ expensive economic plans could prompt a clash with the EU if they defy the previous government’s agreements to bring down Italy’s budget deficit. Both have called for a renegotiation of EU fiscal rules and Mr Salvini has in the past condemned the introduction of the euro as an error.

Mr Di Maio has made clear that the prime minister will be a politician and not a technocratic figurehead. However, the two favourites named by Italian media are both academics.

Five Star and The League have big economic ideas and if their “contract for change” is agreed, it will mean dramatic developments for Italy. Three-quarters of the programme was agreed on Sunday according to party sources.

Five Star have backed a minimum universal income for the poor while The League has called for a 15% flat tax. They are also intent on scrapping a pension reform that raised the retirement age.

Family-friendly policies are also part of the programme, with a zero rate of sales tax on baby products and free nursery places.

But basic income is set to cost €17bn (£15bn, $20bn) and lowering the retirement age would cost a reported €15bn more, while a flat tax would dramatically lower Italy’s tax revenues by an estimated €80bn a year.

The Five Star leader said all that remained for the two parties was “to fine-tune the final details”, after three hours of talks in Milan on Sunday.

President Mattarella has already warned that Italy will have to stick to pro-European policies.

German European Affairs Minister Michael Roth said he was curious to see what would happen next. “I hope that a government is built with which it is possible to live well with the European Union,” he told reporters in Brussels.

So far two names have been put forward, reports say, and both are academics.

Giulio Sapelli is the right-wing League’s choice: he is an economic history professor from Turin who was previously on the board of Italian energy company ENI. Mr Sapelli, 71, has told Italian media that he has been approached by both parties as one of two potential candidates and has said he is available for the job.

The other potential prime minister is Florence university law professor Giuseppe Conte, who is Five Star’s preferred choice and was already the figure they wanted for another government role.

Other names have been put forward but Prof Sapelli and Prof Conte are favourites. When asked about the two parties’ planned programme, Prof Sapelli told Italian media that “it’s a programme that if it is pursued could change the country”.__BBC

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