Italy's PM-designate gives up on forming government after president rejects cabinet

European Union - Italy's Conte fights to form team as ally threatens new vote

Italy's president was accused last night of pandering to Brussels and the markets after he vetoed western Europe's first populist government.

The current President Sergio Mattarella refused to appoint a eurosceptic finance minister, even though he was the choice of the prime minister-designate and had the backing of the majority of parliamentarians.

Conte thanked the president and the leaders of the 5-Star Movement and the League seeking for form a coalition government, "for having put me up as a candidate".

Italian President Sergio Mattarella received prime minister-designate Giuseppe Conte in a meeting that aimed to resolve a days-long standoff over the composition of Italy's next cabinet or lead to the appointment of a caretaker government.

The economy ministry "always constitutes an immediate message of trust or alarm" for financial markets, Mattarella said, adding that he had asked for someone who was not "supporting a position expressed a few times that could probably, or in fact inevitably, provoke Italy's exit from the euro".

"Mattarella has made it clear that he will not allow any policy that could put Italy on a slippery slope towards a major confrontation with the European Union that could potentially jeopardise Italy's euro membership", said Holger Schmieding, an analyst with Berenberg.

Five Star had been trying to form a government with the right-wing League after Italy remained without a government since March elections. In a new book, Savona, described Italy's adoption of the euro as a "historic error", according to media accounts. He was director of the IMF's fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013 and became known as "Mr Scissors" for making cuts to public spending in Italy while charged with the revision of public spending by Enrico Letta's short-lived centre-left government.

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The head of the far-right League party responded with fury.

Similar harsh views were expressed by the leader of Lega, Matteo Salvini, who charged the president of ignoring the popular will. Mattarella "didn't give the center-right the chance to form a government because we didn't have the votes, and now Mr. Cottarelli arrives without any votes?"

But both Five Star and the League have said they would oppose such an administration in parliamentary votes of confidence, which would trigger a new election.

It is on this basis that Di Maio has raised the possibility of impeaching Mattarella for treason - something that would require an absolute majority in both chambers of parliament in a joint session. The constitutional court would then be called to decide whether to enforce the decision.

The 5-Star's Di Maio demanded impeachment under article 90 of the constitution.

Conte's decision to step aside leaves Italy in a political crisis almost three months after March's inconclusive general election.

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