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Italians back League, 5-Star plan as groups ready government team

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Italians back League, 5-Star plan as groups ready government team
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By Giulia Segreti

MILAN (Reuters) – More than 90 percent of Italians participating in an informal ballot gave their blessing to a policy agenda from the far-right League and the 5-Star Movement, as the two parties agreed on a candidate to lead their planned coalition government.

The government “contract” between the League and the anti-establishment 5-Star, the two parties that won the most votes in the March 4 national election, was published on Friday after 11 weeks of political stalemate in the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

It calls for billions of euros in tax cuts, increased welfare payments for the poor, and the scrapping of an unpopular pension reform.

The League, which organised the ballot at stands across the country, said in a statement 91 percent of 215,000 citizens voted in favour of the plan, and that many had offered suggestions for changes or additions.

From one of the stands, in the port town of Fiumicino, League leader Matteo Salvini said on Sunday the two parties had closed their discussions over a candidate for prime minister, confirming it would be a “balanced name”.

He added that it would not be him nor 31-year-old 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio.

“We hope there won’t be any vetoes as the choice reflects the vote of the majority of Italian citizens,” Salvini said.

Di Maio echoed his words, saying the choice was “a friend of the people”. Both declined to identify the person, saying they would first inform President Sergio Mattarella.

The leaders are expected to meet on Monday with Mattarella, who must approve the programme and has a final say on the appointment of the premier.

Giuseppe Conte, a little-known 54-year-old law professor who had previously been proposed to the president, is seen as frontrunner.


Unlike an online vote on Friday by supporters of 5-Star, the League set up 1,000 stands across the country over the weekend, with paper ballots listing 10 of the contract’s main points.

“Citizens appreciate it when politicians give them the possibility to express their opinion, especially when people have lost their patience and want results,” said Gianluca Boari, a town councillor and volunteer at one of the stands in Milan.

However, the ballot was unlikely to upset the delicate political balance between the two parties.

More than 90 percent of almost 45,000 5-Star supporters voted in favour of that party’s programme on Friday.

The decision by the two maverick groups to join forces has upset some of their voters but others say they see this as the only solution for the country.

“I don’t like it at all, Salvini should have said ‘No’. What is this? It’s a terrible compromise for the League,” Veneranda Lorenti, a League supporter, said.

But their joint plans for the financial sector rattled investors as industry leaders said the proposals could stall a clean-up of bank bad debt and derail a tentative recovery.

“I agree with the idea of an anti-establishment government, they should press ahead with stronger policies in the interest of Italy and (against) the European bureaucracies and the financial oligarchies,” Massimo Wailbacher said as he queued to vote at one of the stands in Milan.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Dale Hudson and Keith Weir)

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