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Italy: Silvio Berlusconi balks at junior role as League calls tune

Italy: Silvio Berlusconi balks at junior role as League calls tune

Silvio Berlusconi described Five Star as a bigger threat to Italy than communism, later tension between ex-PM’s camp and the League, has become public over an emerging deal with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement to choose the speakers for Italy’s bicameral parliament. 

Berlusconi warned Italian voters during the campaign that the Five Star would raise taxes significantly, increase poverty through government handouts to the poor and be overly zealous in campaigning against corruption. His allies have warned Mr Salvini that an accommodation with Mr Di Maio would be difficult because of competing platforms and would risk shattering the rightwing alliance, both nationally and at local levels.

Before Italy’s general election this month one big question had been whether Silvio Berlusconi, the 81-year old media mogul and former prime minister, could tame Matteo Salvini, his populist junior coalition partner, in talks to form a rightwing government.

Berlusconi comes back to power

Surprisingly, the Italian voters delivered huge electoral gains for Mr Salvini, making him the dominant force on the Italian right,  It is Mr Salvini who is trying to break Italy’s post-election logjam and construct a government — and Mr Berlusconi who is causing trouble.

Mr Berlusconi — who underperformed in the election — has balked at such an arrangement, insisting that his party, Forza Italia, claim one of the roles.

Many investors and European policymakers would see that as the worst possible outcome, bringing together two parties that are openly critical of EU and eurozone policies.

Yet Mr Berlusconi — who is due to meet Mr Salvini on Wednesday to try to forge a common position — is unlikely to have much leverage at this stage to stop the League’s move towards Five Star, say political analysts.