By COLLEEN BARRY
MILAN (AP) — The head of Italy’s right-wing League party said Thursday that the center-right bloc it heads should get to form the next Italian government since it won the most votes in Italy’s last election, and that it was open to working with Italy’s populist 5-Star Movement.
But Matteo Salvini was talking about the center-right bloc as a united entity, including former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, which collides with the 5-Star Movement’s refusal to enter any coalition government with Berlusconi.
The contrasting positions underline the difficulty faced by Italian President Sergio Mattarella on the second day of consultations in Rome to determine whether any party or coalition can muster enough support to form a stable government after no bloc won a clear majority in the March 4 vote.
While the center-right bloc had the most votes as a bloc, it cannot govern alone and forming a coalition government with the defeated Democratic Party has been mutually ruled out.
The 5-Star Movement also is asserting itself as the possible head of a future government, as the single party with the most votes. Its leader, Luigi Di Maio, meets later Thursday with Mattarella, but has already made clear his refusal to work with Berlusconi, citing his tax-fraud conviction.
But Salvini ignored those conditions as he spoke to reporters after meeting with Mattarella.
“We want to work for a government that will last five years, that has the national interests of Italy as a priority,” Salvini said, adding that the numbers indicate the only solution is a center-right coalition with the 5-Star Movement.
“It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that the other solutions would be temporary and improvised,” Salvini said.
He said he will meet formally with other party leaders in the coming days to search for an agreement, starting with the center-right.
Earlier, the leader of Democratic Party, which badly lost the vote, said the center-left bloc would not play any role in Italy’s new government and urged the 5-Star Movement and the League to work together to form a government.
If Mattarella is not convinced that any party can reach a coalition deal, he can opt for another round of formal talks. And if an impasse persists, a new election is also an option — but one that analysts say most parties are not eager to face.
“This week’s consultations are just the beginning of what is likely to be a long and tortuous process,” said Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo Intel consultancy.