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Italy president proposes ‘neutral’ govt to rule through 2018

Forza Italia party's Leader Silvio Berlusconi, right, listens to The League party's leader Matteo Salvin as he speaks with journalists at the Quirinale presidential palace after talks with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in Rome, Monday, May 7, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari / Associated Press)
Forza Italia party's Leader Silvio Berlusconi, right, listens to The League party's leader Matteo Salvin as he speaks with journalists at the Quirinale presidential palace after talks with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in Rome, Monday, May 7, 2018. (Ettore Ferrari / Associated Press)
By Nicole Winfield Associated Press

ROME – Italy’s president on Monday proposed a “neutral” government to lead the country until the end of the year after declaring there was no hope now for a workable political alliance and that Italy can’t wait any longer for leadership.

Two months after the inconclusive March 4 election, President Sergio Mattarella urged Italy’s deadlocked political leaders to back the “government of service” until at least the budget is passed by Dec. 31. He warned that calling elections any time before 2019 would expose Italy to undue risks.

Mattarella didn’t propose any names for the “neutral” government, but stressed that its leaders wouldn’t be allowed to run in a subsequent election, and would resign if a political majority could gel in parliament sometime before new balloting is called.

“I hope that various forces have a positive response by assuming their responsibilities in the interests of Italy,” he said.

A clearly frustrated Mattarella had tried for weeks to break the impasse that resulted after Italians gave the center-right coalition 37 percent, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement 32 percent, and the ruling Democratic Party its worst result in history with 19 percent.

Various proposals for alliances failed, primarily after the right-wing League refused to split with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia to enter into a coalition with the 5-Stars.

Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio vowed Monday he would never support a technical government and repeated his call for an election as early as June.

Mattarella said that would be impossible. He said elections over the summer would be impractical because so many Italians would be on vacation, and risky in the fall because there might not be enough time to approve the annual budget.

Pitching for a neutral government that could lead until December, he said Italy needed a functioning government immediately because of pressing European Union decisions coming up in June over the EU budget and immigration matters. And he said the current caretaker government of Premier Paolo Gentiloni had run its course after the Democrats lost their majority.

“The parties have repeatedly asked for more time to try to find an agreement,” Mattarella said after a day of final, last-ditch consultations. “In the meantime lacking an agreement, I hope they will agree via a confidence vote to give birth to a neutral government. A government of service.”

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