Draghi’s prospects of forming government boosted by ‘conditional support’ of two large parties

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ROME, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Mario Draghi’s prospects of forming a government in Italy were boosted on Saturday when the two largest parties in parliament, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the rightist League, both gave him their conditional backing.

However, Draghi’s route to power is still not clear. Both parties said his policy proposals would be the key to securing their support, and it may be some time before he is able to put together a coalition able to muster a parliamentary majority.

Having completed a first round of formal consultations with parties on Saturday, Draghi will hold more talks next week aimed at drawing up a cabinet, a broad policy agenda and establishing the make-up of a ruling coalition.

The 5-Star Movement, the largest group in parliament, sounded more cautious than the League on Saturday. Its leader Vito Crimi set out a long list of green and left-leaning policy priorities it wanted to see from a future Draghi cabinet.

“We said we were open to considering whether the conditions are right to join a government, we will decide above all on the basis of the policies,” Crimi told reporters after a 90-minute meeting with the former European Central Bank chief.

Head of state Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi on Wednesday to try to form an administration after the previous one, led by Giuseppe Conte, was brought down due to the collapse of the ruling coalition.

Matteo Salvini, the firebrand leader of the traditionally eurosceptic League, sounded enthusiastic after his talks with Draghi, which lasted about half as long as 5-Star’s.

The League was ready to join a government “that goes to Brussels keeping its head high in the name of the national interest”, Salvini said.

“Unlike others we don’t think just saying no gets you anywhere,” he said in reference to some parties’ attempts to exclude the League. “The best interest of the country must come before any personal or party interest.”

SHIFTING TOWARDS DRAGHI

The 5-Star Movement had initially ruled out backing Draghi, while Salvini has repeatedly shifted his position, first calling for snap elections, then saying the League would not govern with 5-Star, before his latest “no vetoes” stance.

Italian financial markets have rallied on the expectation Draghi will succeed. Last week Italy’s 10-year bond yield posted its biggest weekly drop since July, while the gap over the German Bund yield narrowed to its lowest in five years.

Investors hope the man widely credited with saving the euro during the 2012 sovereign debt crisis can spearhead reforms to boost growth in a country that has long underperformed its European peers, weighing down the whole euro zone.

While almost all the parties in parliament have now said they are potentially willing to back Draghi, it remains to be seen whether they are willing to do so together, creating a broad, cross-party coalition.

The centre-left Democratic Party has said it does not want to govern with the League, while Crimi also signaled he wanted a new coalition to be based around the left-leaning and centrist forces that formed the last one.

Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party, the fourth largest in parliament, gave its unconditional backing to Draghi after meeting him on Friday, but it is not clear if 5-Star would govern with Forza Italia, a sworn political enemy.

5-Star, born as an anti-system, anti-euro protest party, is now internally divided, with many of its members uneasy about the prospect of backing a former ECB president. (Additional reporting by Valentina Consiglio; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Valentina Za and Christina Fincher)

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