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  1. ITV Report

Ex-Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte accepts mandate to form new government days after quitting

Italy’s president has given the recently resigned premier, Giuseppe Conte, a fresh mandate to see if he can form a new government. Credit: AP

Italy's ex-prime minister Giuseppe Conte has accepted a fresh mandate to form a new government in a bid to block nationalist League leader Matteo Salvini's grab for power.

The premier had just resigned, but after meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, he accepted a new mandate to form a government majority backed by politicians in the populist 5-Star Movement and centre-left Democratic Party.

The two sides had, until the current crisis, been staunch political foes, but have put aside their difference in a bid to stop the right-wing League from gaining power.

Mr Conte said he would meet with the parties immediately in a bid to establish political stability, after Mr Salvini unexpectedly withdrew support for the foundering League-5-Star government to seek early elections.

Following unprecedented success in the European Parliament elections, Mr Salvini had hoped his party could increase its power in a national election.

Mr Conte met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday. Credit: AP

Mr Salvini's power play collapsed the 14-month-old populist government and triggered political uncertainty in Italy and once again focused investor attention on Italy, raising borrowing costs on its stubbornly high debt.

The 5-Star Movement and Democratic Party have now banded together to thwart Mr Salvini's attempt to grab power.

"This is a very delicate phase for the country," said Mr Conte, who was forced to resign after Mr Salvini yanked support for his government.

"We need to exit political uncertainty as quickly as possible."

Matteo Salvini unexpectedly withdrew support for the foundering League-5-Star government. Credit: AP

Italy faces a critical autumn deadline for drafting a budget for the European Union, with the looming prospect of raising VAT to cover shortfalls.

The new alliance appears aimed at avoiding elections, but even if Mr Conte cobbles together a government and wins a vote of confidence, political analysts warn it is unlikely to last.

The Democratic Party refused to even consider talks with 5-Star after the inconclusive March 2018 national elections eventually led to the coalition with the League, and the two parties have long traded barbed insults.

Mr Salvini was emboldened to pull the plug on the government by his strong showing in this spring's European elections, local votes and political surveys that showed the League had nearly doubled its support since the 2018 elections, while that of the 5-Stars had essentially fallen by half.

Mr Conte said it's 'very delicate phase for the country' in his speech. Credit: AP

But Mr Salvini, whose popularity soared with his anti-migrant policies, did not count on the former political foes closing ranks to block his bid for power.

Mr Conte is seen as an ally of 5-Star, even though the law professor had no party affiliation when he became premier in June 2018.

He kept a relatively low profile during the 14-month 5-Star-League government, but, before handing in his resignation to Mr Mattarella, he lashed out at Mr Salvini for forcing his government to collapse.