Italy’s president has come under fire after he vetoed the proposed economy minister of what would have been Western Europe’s first populist government, ushering in the likelihood of a new election within months.
News reports said Sergio Mattarella would convene the former International Monetary Fund official Carlo Cottarelli to the presidential palace later on Monday and ask him to form a technical government that can lead Italy until a new election.
Mr Mattarella’s office declined to reveal his plans.
Markets have largely welcomed his decision to put an end to the proposed government of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing nationalist League, which had insisted on Paolo Savona as economy minister.
Mr Savona, a former industry minister, has questioned whether Italy should ditch the euro as its currency.
The Milan stock exchange opened higher on Monday and the spread of points between Italy’s bonds and benchmark German bonds, which had grown alarmingly last week, fell slightly.
Mr Mattarella’s veto on Sunday enraged both League leader Matteo Salvini and Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, who threatened to start impeachment proceedings against him.
The president, however, took pains to explain that he was fully in his constitutional right and duty to reject Mr Savona as economy minister, saying he had repeatedly asked for a minister who would not be perceived as entertaining Italy’s exit from the euro.
“Sticking with the euro is a fundamentally important choice for our country and our young people,” Mr Mattarella said in a late-night statement at the Quirinale Palace.
“If you want to discuss it, it should have been done openly and with a serious debate,” which he noted had not been part of the electoral campaign.
Mr Cottarelli, for his part, is an economist who assisted a former centre-left government in slashing public spending.
A technical government will still be subject to votes of confidence in both houses of Parliament, and the Five Star Movement and League made clear Mr Cottarelli would not have their support.
In an interview with Radio Capital on Monday, Mr Salvini wondered aloud who would vote for him.
Mr Mattarella “didn’t give the centre-right the chance to form a government because we didn’t have the votes, and now Mr Cottarelli arrives without any votes? It seems a stretch,” Mr Salvini said.
He also warned ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi against voting for Mr Cottarelli’s government.
In a statement late on Sunday, the three-time premier took a much more measured tone about the collapse of the Five Star-League experiment, refusing to criticise Mr Mattarella.
Mr Berlusconi had never endorsed the populist attempt at government, but had not impeded it either.
He has as much to gain from a new election as the League, which has seen its popularity only rise in the weeks since the March 4 election resulted in a hung parliament.
The vote gave the centre-right alliance of the League, Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and a smaller party 37%, while the Five Star Movement took 32%.
However, Mr Salvini warned Mr Berlusconi that the alliance would collapse if Forza Italia voted for Mr Cottarelli.