Leader of the five-star movement Luigi Di Maio, left, and league leader Matteo Salvini are close to forming a coalition government. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP / Getty Images)
ROM – The two populist parties of Italy urged on Thursday to form a government that would combine elements of Euroscepticism and right-wing extremist protectionism, putting Italy in the lead in rebellion Continent against the old political order.
The talks between the Five-Star Movement and the League, the parties most supported by the Italian elections in March, marked a sudden development after two months political blockade. But hurdles remain, and the two parties may need days to resolve their problems – including the election of a new prime minister.
If an agreement can be reached, Italy would become the first Western European heartland that would form a fully populist government – one that in this case would come closer to Russia, take a much stiffer view of migrants and fight against some budgetary restrictions The European Union. Such a government would also test how well an insurgent class of politicians could lead a country struggling with two decades of economic stagnation and an influx of migrants.
"Now we will move forward as soon as possible to give Italy a government," said Luigi Di Maio, leader of the five-star movement, on Thursday following talks with league leader Matteo Salvini. "These are very important moments for the Italian Republic."
The two parties, though separated by some political differences, both made their names despite the establishment. The League was, until recently renamed, a party that opposed the idea of a united Italy and called for the splitting off of the more prosperous northern region . Salvini expanded the party's national appeal by turning his anger away from the inhabitants of the South and the immigrants and bureaucrats in Brussels. He now commits to deport 600,000 migrants. He has demanded the closure of mosques and says that economic sanctions against Russia are "madness". He has often criticized the euro and called it a "German currency".
The five-star movement is now less far away. right party as an unconventional one. It was founded by a comedian and positions itself as a technically savvy avant-garde for a new version of anti-elitist democracy. Its leaders have sworn to make important decisions in an online vote of party members. Five Star draws support from both left and right. Di Maio, 31, has questioned European integration but has recently rejected this position. Five Star's platform is full of spending policies on bread and butter – including providing generous benefits to low-paid and unemployed people – that could bring them into conflict with the European Union.
League chief Matteo Salvini has committed to deporting 600,000 migrants. Massimo Percossi / Epa-Eve / Rex / Shutterstock
"These are the gatekeepers of a new political system in Italy," said Massimiliano Panarari, who teaches political communication at the LUISS Guido Carli, a university in Rome. "They are similar in general ideology: they are both nationalist, they are both Europeans – in the sense that they defend Italian interests against the European Union, and I think there is a basis for an arrangement on these points." [InaconversationonThursdayeveninginthe political discussion with the broadcast "Piazzapulita" said Alfonso Bonafede, a leading five-star member, talks between his party and The League went "very well" before and proposed the possibility that the PM elected by them could be a member of one of the two parties.
Italy has been an inconclusive March 4 election in which no party receives a sufficiently high percentage of the vote to form a government. The five-star movement received 33 percent of the vote; the League and its coalition partners – Forza Italia and two much smaller parties – claimed 37 percent.
Both Di Maio and Salvini felt that they deserved to become prime ministers. But in weeks of negotiations, no agreement could be reached in Parliament. Five-star officials said that Silvio Berlusconi, founder of Forza Italia, was a longtime and scandalous prime minister who attacked Italy's political establishment.
After President Sergio Mattarella plays a referee role after the elections, threatened with the creation of a "neutral government" of technocrats, the parties were this week urged to help each other lead Italy up to his next election. On Wednesday, Berlusconi signaled his willingness to retire and admit a five-star league. This move would leave Berlusconi's party outside the government.
Leader of the five-star movement, Luigi Di Maio, leaves talks with League chief Matteo Salvini on Thursday. (Giuseppe Lami / AP)
"This ultimatum puts everyone to the brink, with the clarity of a man to be hanged," said Franco Pavoncello, president of John Cabot University in Rome. "Everyone came to their mind."
"Did it cost him politically? The answer is yes," said Giorgio Mulè, the Forza Italia spokesman in parliament. He said Forza Italia would continue to support a policy that was consistent with its center-right platform.
Although the March Rule did not immediately lead to a new government, it was registered as a sign of anger in a country of economics. It's almost as big as two decades ago, and routinely speaking of combining high taxes and unreliable public services.
Italy has also carried a disproportionate share of the burden of the European migrant crisis: more than half a million migrants have arrived in Italy in the last five years. Most were unable to move further north to other European countries, and the E.U. has failed to develop an agreement that distributes migrants more evenly across the Member States.
Italy and other Mediterranean countries "can not become the refugee camp of Europe", according to a statement from the Five Star Movement website.
The spread of anti-establishment populism has also spread to Greece, another country with a besieged economy that has disproportionately dealt with the refugee crisis.
But Italians are not fully committed to an anti-E.U. Attitude. Mattarella made a speech on Thursday in Florence warning against "sovereign storytelling" and said that nationalism was not a solution to modern problems.
Some analysts said that a potential Five Star League government could also be prevented from fulfilling campaign promises through their relative youth and inexperience.
"We do not necessarily talk about massive policy changes, because the truth is that they are unable to fulfill them," said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Italian Institute for International Affairs. "To reach the big break, you have to deliver, we speak of people who never held a government position."
Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.