Italy’s rul­ing PD re­sists calls to par­tic­i­pate in govern­ment


ROME: The care­taker leader of Italy’s rul­ing Demo­cratic Party (PD) said on Mon­day the party should go into op­po­si­tion af­ter its bruis­ing elec­tion de­feat and re­sist calls to par­tic­i­pate in the next govern­ment as a junior part­ner.

A March 4 elec­tion ended in stale­mate, with an al­liance of con­ser­va­tive par­ties fall­ing 49 seats short of a ma­jor­ity in the lower house of Par­lia­ment. The largest sin­gle party, the anti­estab­lish­ment 5-Star Move­ment, was 95 seats adrift.

Ei­ther group could gov­ern if they won the back­ing of the cen­ter-left bloc, dom­i­nated by the PD, which took 112 seats in the 630-seat lower house. The PD could also pro­vide both camps with a ma­jor­ity in the up­per house Se­nate.

Mau­r­izio Martina, who has taken over as act­ing PD chief fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of for­mer leader Mat­teo Renzi, told a party meet­ing that 5-Star and the far-right League should try to form a govern­ment even though they were pre-elec­tion ad­ver­saries.

“The peo­ple voted for you to gov­ern, now do it,” Martina said in ref­er­ence to 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and Mat­teo Salvini, head of the League which was the lead­ing party in the rightwing coali­tion.

“Dear Di Maio and Salvini, take on your re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he told the party, meet­ing to lick its wounds af­ter its worst-ever elec­tion per­for­mance and try to chart a path for­ward.

Martina’s words were in line with Renzi’s part­ing shots, but it re­mains to be seen whether the PD will con­tinue to re­sist calls from within its ranks and from left-wing com­men­ta­tors for it to sup­port a po­ten­tial 5-Star govern­ment.

Ear­lier on Mon­day Salvini re­jected the idea of gov­ern­ing with the PD, hours af­ter his main ally, for­mer prime minister Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, called for its sup­port.

“The Ital­ians did not vote for us to bring Renzi back to govern­ment. Do you think a League voter wants (cur­rent Prime Minister Paolo) Gen­tiloni in power?” Salvini told re­porters af­ter a party meet­ing in Mi­lan.

His state­ments con­trasted with an ap­peal Ber­lus­coni made to the PD in Mon­day’s Stampa news­pa­per, ask­ing for its help to form a govern­ment and avoid a swift re­turn to the polls.

The for­mer premier, who can­not run for of­fice due to a 2013 tax fraud con­vic­tion, said the elec­tion re­sult meant he and his right-wing al­lies had “the right, and above all the duty, to lead the next govern­ment,” and he called on the PD to show a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“No­body ... can ig­nore the coun­try’s need to be gov­erned,” he said, adding it would be much bet­ter to take “a few weeks” to put to­gether a coali­tion rather than rush to a new elec­tion.

Forza Italia’s rel­e­ga­tion to sec­ond place within the al­liance was the first such de­feat for Ber­lus­coni in all his 25 years in pol­i­tics, and weak­ened the po­si­tion he had carved out as a mod­er­ate guar­an­tor who could keep his al­lies in check.

Demo­cratic Party's Michele Emiliano ar­rives for a party meet­ing in Rome Mon­day. (AP)

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