A former International Monetary Fund official nicknamed ‘Mr Scissors’ has been made interim prime minister in Italy and tasked with forming a new government amid fresh political turmoil.
Carlo Cottarelli said this morning that he will put together a government ‘very quickly’ ahead of fresh elections, to be held in autumn or early next year.
President Sergio Mattarella turned to the economist after scuppering an attempt by populist parties the Five Star Movement and the League who aimed to form a coalition.
Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has called for Mattarella to be impeached for treason after he vetoed their bid to install fiercely eurosceptic economy minister Paolo Savona, who has described the euro as a ‘German cage’.
Such a move would require an absolute majority in both chambers of parliament in a joint session. League leader Matteo Salvini has called for protests against Mattarella, who cited concerns from investors at home and abroad for his decision.
The Italian President Sergio Mattarella (pictured yesterday) is facing impeachment calls for treason after he refused to appoint a fiercely eurosceptic finance minister
Italy’s interim prime minister Carlo Cottarelli (pictured today) said this morning that he will put together a government ‘very quickly’ ahead of fresh elections, to be held in autumn or early next year
The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio (left) and Matteo Salvini (right), have been enraged by the move which has plunged Italy into fresh political turmoil
The two parties’ approved nominee for prime minister, lawyer and political novice Giuseppe Conte, stepped aside over the veto, exacerbating the political turmoil nearly three months after March’s inconclusive general election.
Mattarella said he had accepted every proposed minister except Savona.
Di Maio and Salvini denounced the veto, decrying what they called meddling by Germany, ratings agencies and financial lobbies.
Mattarella summoned Carlo Cottarelli, an economist formerly with the International Monetary Fund, for talks earlier today, with a temporary technocrat government on the table as Italy faces the strong possibility of new elections in the autumn.
Cottarelli, 64, was director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013 and became known as ‘Mr. Scissors’ for making cuts to public spending in Italy.
Sergio Mattarella vetoed the appointment of Paolo Savona (pictured) who has described the euro as a ‘German cage’ and said that Italy needs a plan to leave the single currency ‘if necessary’
Italian president’s powers in a crisis
The president of Italy, an institutionally respected figure, has limited powers but ones which have often proved crucial during political crises.
The current President Sergio Mattarella refused to appoint a eurosceptic finance minister, even though he was the choice of the prime minister-designate and had the backing of the majority of parliamentarians.
His decision to exercise this right, which is enshrined in Article 92 of the Italian constitution, enraged the far-right League of Matteo Salvini and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Luigi Di Maio.
It is not the first time that an Italian president has refused to appoint a minister supported by the majority of lawmakers – it has happened at least three times before, most notoriously with Silvio Berlusconi.
The current President Sergio Mattarella refused to appoint a eurosceptic finance minister, even though he was the choice of the prime minister-designate and had the backing of the majority of parliamentarians
After winning elections in 1994, the media magnate, who was already in the crosshairs of the Italian justice system, proposed to president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro to nominate his personal lawyer Cesare Previti as Minister of Justice.
Scalfaro refused and Berlusconi accepted defeat.
This time, the Italian populists have refused to accept that the country’s head of state is simply exercising his prerogative, instead denouncing what they claim is meddling by Brussels or financial lobbyists.
It is on this basis that Di Maio has raised the possibility of impeaching Mattarella for treason – something that would require an absolute majority in both chambers of parliament in a joint session.
The president has very limited powers but can appoint heads of government and their chosen ministers.
The constitution also gives the president the power to dissolve parliament, a deterrent force which has played a part in numerous prior political crises in Italy – a country which has had 64 governments since 1946.
During the financial crisis in 2011, when global markets turned on Italy, President Giorgio Napolitano supported a move to oust Silvio Berlusconi and replace him with former European Commissioner Mario Monti.
Berlusconi denounced what he said was a state coup and demanded early elections – but in vain.
The League and M5S had also called for early elections after Italians voted no in a 2016 referendum on constitutional reform – prompting the departure of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – but Mattarella refused to dissolve parliament.
‘I will come to parliament with a programme that, if I win the vote of confidence, will include a vote on the 2019 budget. Then parliament will be dissolved, with elections at the start of 2019,’ Cottarelli told reporters after meeting Mattarella.
But he added that if, as is likely, his government is not approved by parliament, new elections will be held ‘after August’.
He will struggle to gain the approval of parliament with Five Star and the League commanding a majority in both houses.
Giuseppe Conte (pictured) has given Italian President Sergio Mattarella back his mandate to form a government
‘They’ve replaced a government with a majority with one that won’t obtain one,’ said Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio to supporters at a rally near Rome.
A former judge of Italy’s constitutional court, Mattarella has refused to bow to what he saw as ‘diktats’ from the two parties which he considered contrary to the country’s interests.
He had watched for weeks as Five Star and the League set about trying to strike an alliance that would give Italy’s hung parliament a majority.
Mattarella said that he has done ‘everything possible’ to aid the formation of a government, but that an openly eurosceptic economy minister ran against the parties’ joint promise to simply ‘change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view’.
‘I asked for the (economy) ministry an authoritative person from the parliamentary majority who is consistent with the government programme… who isn’t seen as a supporter of a line that could probably, or even inevitably, provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,’ Mattarella said.
Mr Conte (pictured) who has no political experience, received the mandate last week from the pro-European Mr Mattarella, but talks failed
The president said Conte refused to support ‘any other solution’ and then, faced with Mattarella’s refusal to approve the choice of Savona, gave up his mandate to be prime minister.
The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, were infuriated by Mattarella’s refusal to accept Savona, a respected financier and economist.
Salvini, who was Savona’s biggest advocate and a fellow eurosceptic, said on Sunday that Italy wasn’t a ‘colony’, and that ‘we won’t have Germany tell us what to do’.
‘Why don’t we just say that in this country it’s pointless that we vote, as the ratings agencies, financial lobbies decide the governments,’ a livid Di Maio said in a video on Facebook.
Later on Italian television he called for impeaching Mattarella.
‘I hope that we can give the floor to Italians as soon as possible, but first we need to clear things up. First the impeachment of Mattarella… then to the polls,’ Di Maio said.