Developing Story – Italian president says sees chance fallen coalition can be revived – UPDATE

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ROME, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Italian President Sergio Mattarella, looking to overcome a political crisis that has brought down the government, said on Friday he believed the collapsed coalition could still be revived.

Following three days of talks with party leaders, Mattarella told reporters he would launch an initiative immediately to test the ground further, saying it was vital to find a swift solution given the health and economic emergency battering Italy.

Shortly afterwards, he summoned the head of the lower house of parliament, Roberto Fico, and was widely expected to ask him to mediate with the squabbling coalition parties to try to resolve their differences.

The crisis was triggered this month when former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his tiny Italia Viva party from the coalition, depriving it of a majority in the upper house Senate and forcing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to resign.

Conte has tried to lure unaligned and opposition senators into the government ranks to replace Italia Viva, but he has had little apparent success, meaning that if he wants to stay in office, he will almost certainly need Renzi’s help.

Conte has no party affiliation but is close to the largest coalition group – the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. It had said it wanted nothing more to do with Renzi, but in a U-turn, the 5-Star leader offered to try and mend broken ties.

“We expressed our willingness to … (create) a political government that takes as its starting point the coalition forces that have worked together over the past year and a half,” 5-Star’s Vito Crimi said on Friday after seeing the head of state.

However, he also insisted that Conte had to stay on as prime minister – something Renzi has so far refused to endorse.


The decision to offer Renzi an olive branch went down badly with hardline 5-Star members, who have heaped abuse on the former premier over the past two weeks.

“I see that the (5-Star) position has changed. I have not changed my position,” said one of the movement’s leading lights, Alessandro Di Battista. “If the movement goes back to its old position, I’m in. Otherwise, it is goodbye and thank you.”

Di Battista is not in parliament and it was not immediately clear how many lawmakers might follow him out the party if Crimi goes ahead and forges a new alliance with Renzi.

The other main ruling group, the centre-left Democratic Party, is also backing Conte to get a fresh mandate but the prospect is far from certain unless Renzi and he both agree to patch up their policy differences and mutual recriminations.

Renzi, whose party has barely 2% of voter support, stormed out of the coalition over Conte’s handling of COVID-19 and the recession, and in particular his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros ($243 billion) from a European Union fund to help Italy’s virus-battered economy.

He accused the prime minister of lacking strategic vision, saying he risked squandering the EU bonanza on handouts rather than long-term investments. Conte has denied this.

($1 = 0.8245 euros) (Reporting by Angelo Amante, writing by Gavin Jones, editing by Crispian Balmer and Pravin Char)

Photo A handout photo made available by Quirinale Press Office shows Italian President Sergio Mattarella releases a statement to the press at the end of the first round of formal political consultations following the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in Rome, Italy, 29 January 2021. President Sergio Mattarella is holding formal consultations on Italy’s government crisis with the political parties represented in parliament after Premier Giuseppe Conte quit on 26 January as the executive no longer had an absolute majority in the Senate. EPA-EFE/FRANCESCO AMMENDOLA / QUIRINALE PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT

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