Fury in Italy as attempt to form government collapses

Italy‘s populist parties reacted with fury last night when attempts to form a government dramatically broke down after the country‘s president vetoed their choice of economy minister, a harsh critic of the euro.

Nearly three months after a general election on March 4, hopes that the country would have a government formed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the hard-right League were dashed.

Instead, Italy looked likely to be heading for fresh elections.

The two parties, who were set to form Western Europe‘s first populist government, wanted Paolo Savona, an economist and banker who has been highly critical of the euro, as their economy minister.

The parties won 50pc of the vote at the election and insisted that their choice of cabinet ministers was an essential part of their democratic mandate. But Sergio Mattarella, Italy‘s president, saw otherwise, blocking Mr Savona for the economy portfolio.

The president said he approved all of the other cabinet picks but rejected the coalition partners‘ choice for the economy portfolio out of concern it would have a negative effect on financial markets and the Italian economy.

As a result, Giuseppe Conte, a law professor who had been named as the coalition‘s prime minister, resigned after a day of tense talks with the president at the Quirinal Palace in Rome.

“Giuseppe Conte has given up the mandate to form a government, given to him on May 23,” an official from the palace said.

In a terse statement, Professor Conte said he “gave the maximum effort, attention, to carry out this task with the full collaboration” of the Five Star Movement and League.

Luigi Di Maio, the youthful head of Five Star, took to Facebook to vent his fury over the collapse of the nascent government. He told his supporters that he and Matteo Salvini, the leader of League, had been ready to form a government today.

He even read out the full list of ministerial appointments that the two leaders had put forward.

“I am very angry. You can imagine how much time we spent trying to form a government over the last 80 days,” he said.

“We worked day and night to give a government to this country.”

He said the coalition had been torpedoed before it got off the ground by “the credit rating agencies” and “the financial lobbies” – a reference to the concern in Brussels and elsewhere over the appointment of Mr Savona.

He said the president‘s veto was “unacceptable”, describing it as “an institutional clash without precedent”.

Mr Salvini was also left furious.

“We will not be blackmailed by anyone,” he said in an angry speech from the city of Terni, in Umbria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)