ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s opposition Democratic Party (PD) has had good, initial contacts with the ruling 5-Star Movement over the possibility of forging a coalition, a PD source with knowledge of the talks said on Monday.
The 5-Star’s current coalition partner, the far-right League, has said it will present a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in an attempt to trigger a snap election and cash in on its surging popularity in the polls.
However, there is widespread uncertainty over how the turmoil will end, with any number of options possible, including the creation of a new government that would see the League dumped back into opposition ranks.
“We have had good talks with 5-Star. Let’s now see what happens with Conte,” said the PD source, who declined to be named. A second PD source said: “I think everyone is ready to try to form a new government that can last for the entire legislature.”
Conte is due to address the upper house Senate on Tuesday over the political crisis. He might hand in his resignation immediately afterwards to President Sergio Mattarella or could instead wait for a formal parliamentary vote to unseat him.
The 5-Star declined to comment on the status of any talks with the PD, saying it was waiting to hear Conte’s speech.
If Conte resigns, Mattarella will open consultations with all the parties to see if a new administration can be formed. Failing that, he will have to dissolve parliament and call national elections some 3-1/2 years ahead of schedule.
“The situation is so fluid that I do not rule out even a resurrection of the current League, 5-Star coalition,” a member of the government told Reuters, asking not to be named.
PD leader Nicola Zingaretti said on Monday his party either wanted early elections or else the formation of a “strong government” with a mandate to reform Italy — a comment seen as signalling his willingness to hook up with 5-Star.
Italy has not held an election in the autumn since World War Two because the final months of the year are traditionally dedicated to drawing up the budget — a key moment for a country with one of the world’s largest debt mountains.
Despite this, League leader Matteo Salvini appeared convinced his surprise move to topple the government would trigger a vote, assuming that 5-Star and PD would never join forces — two parties that have always reviled one another.
Instead, in an unexpected move, former PD leader Matteo Renzi has said his party should work with 5-Star to thwart the burgeoning ambitions of Salvini, who has promised to defy EU budget rules and introduce swingeing tax cuts.
Alarmed at the prospect of losing power, Salvini has softened his attacks on 5-Star over the past week and even hinted that he could carry on in government with them, while denouncing the possibility of a new coalition taking office.
“They have chosen Renzi? Good luck to them,” he said on Facebook.
Writing by Crispian Balmer, editing by Ed Osmond