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League might not hook up again with Forza Italia - party grandee

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League might not hook up again with Forza Italia - party grandee
FILE PHOTO: Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi sits next to Northern League leader Matteo Salvini during a meeting in Rome, Italy, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo   -   Copyright  Alessandro Bianchi(Reuters)
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By Crispian Balmer

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s ruling League party might not forge any more electoral pacts at a national level with its traditional ally Forza Italia, a senior League politician said on Tuesday, signalling the possible end of an era.

The League has struck repeated alliances with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia over the past two decades, including at a parliamentary election in March 2018.

However, the centre-right bloc, which also includes the nationalist Brothers of Italy, failed to win an outright majority in that vote, leading to three months of political stalemate. In the end, the League formed a coalition with the anti-system 5-Star Movement, leaving Berlusconi in opposition.

“If we were to vote before the end of the year … I do not know if it would be possible to run again in a centre-right alliance,” said Riccardo Molinari, the League’s parliamentary party leader in the lower house.

Molinari, who is close to League chief Matteo Salvini, stressed that he did not expect any national election this year, but said if his party performs strongly in EU parliamentary polls in May it might seek more power within the government.

The centre-right bloc still stands together in local elections and has won seven successive regional votes over the past 12 months — most recently last month in Basilicata.

“At a national level, there is the question of the political vision you want to have, which is very different from local problems,” Molinari told foreign reporters, noting the different views of Europe held by the eurosceptic League and more mainstream Forza Italia.

He did not mention Brothers of Italy, which is ideologically much closer to the League and a more natural partner.

Although the ruling coalition is constantly riven with tensions over a variety of issues, Molinari said League and 5-Star lawmakers got along well, while their two parties still commanded a clear majority in the polls.

“The longer we govern with 5-Star, the more it enters the public conscience and it would be hard to understand why the League (subsequently) would run with the centre-right,” he said.

The League’s own support has roughly doubled from last year’s election, with recent polls putting it on around 33 percent. By contrast, backing for 5-Star has dropped to around 22 percent from 33 percent a year ago.

Molinari said if the polls were borne out in next month’s EU ballot then the balance of power would change within the government.

“If we get more votes than 5-Star, as seems likely, we will try to make our ideas weigh more on certain issues than is the case now,” he added. “We will clearly have greater weight, but we will want to use it to push the government forward not to break it apart.”

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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