No End In Sight to Italy’s Crisis As President Rejects New PM-Elect’s Choice of Finance Minister
Sergio Mattarella, President, Italy (Photo: Embassy of Uganda, Rome)

Giuseppe Conte, Italy's prime minister-designate, will not proceed further with his efforts to form the new government after the country’s President Sergio Mattarella vetoed his choice for the post of minister of economy.

The announcement was made by presidential palace hours after the meeting took place. The announcement on Sunday came after a meeting between Conte and Italian President Sergio Mattarella to discuss a proposed list of cabinet members, in what would have been Italy's first populist government.

President Mattarella refused to endorse Paolo Savona, a vocal critic of the European Union, for the post of minister of economy. He said he had agreed to all proposals but could not back Paolo Savona, a ‘eurosceptic.’ Under Italian law, the president has the right to reject the appointment of a cabinet member. Savona, who served as industry minister during the 1990s, has been an outspoken critic of the EU and an opponent of austerity programmes, prompting concern over the proposed government's commitment to the EU.

Matarella's move angered the two populist parties trying to form a coalition. Luigi Di Maio, the leader of 5-Star, called for the president's impeachment. Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, called for a new election."In a democracy, if we are still in democracy, there's only one thing to do, let the Italians have their say," he told supporters in a speech in central Italy.

Italy has been without a government since elections on 4 March. Two populist parties, 5-Star, which won 32% of the vote, and the far-right League party, which won 18%, had agreed earlier this month after days of talks to form a coalition.

Experts say the populist government’s lack of experience puts into doubt their ability to rein in the country's massive national debt - equal to 1.3 times its annual output. On Friday, ratings agency Moody's had threatened to downgrade Italy's debt rating, citing a risk that the new government might fail to reduce its public debt.