The leader of Italy’s opposition Democratic Party, calling for an end to the country’s political “season of hate,” acquiesced Wednesday to demands by the populist 5-Star Movement for another premiership by Giuseppe Conte so both rival forces can team up to keep from power the hard-right nationalist League party.
Party leader Nicola Zingaretti told reporters after meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella that he informed the president that because the 5-Stars were the biggest party in Parliament, the Democrats would back the movement’s choice for premier.
As head of state, Mattarella must decide whether a stable government can be formed or if it’s best to call an early election that is likely to propel League leader Matteo Salvini to power.
The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was the senior party in a coalition government led by Conte. It collapsed last week after Salvini yanked support in a bid to trigger the election and make him the next premier.
The center-left Democrats have been plagued by infighting, including over whether it’s wise to ally with their ideological rivals the 5-Stars. Zingaretti had originally insisted that the wisest course is to put the choice for the next government in the hands of voters.
But a powerful party faction led by former Premier Matteo Renzi has lobbied vigorously for a coalition deal with the 5-Stars.
Earlier Wednesday, after down-to-the wire, frantic negotiations with the 5-Stars, the Democratic Party leadership voted in favor of a second mandate for Conte.
Zingaretti didn’t name Conte in his remarks outside the president’s office at the Quirinale Palace, saying only that the choice was the one named by the 5-Stars in recent days. The Movement has loudly lobbied for Conte.
“We love Italy and we believe that it’s worthwhile to try this new experience,” Zingaretti said. “In complicated times like those of today, to avoid the responsibility of having the courage to try is something we cannot and do not want to allow.”
In apparent reference to Salvini, who as interior minister cracked down on immigration and along with other League leaders accused migrants of fueling crime, Zingaretti added: “We intend to put an end to the season of hate, rancor and fear.”
Little has been revealed on how the pro-European Union Democrats would govern in a coalition with the 5-Stars, who resent EU influence on national policies. The Democrats sharply criticized the anti-migrant line of Conte’s government championed by Salvini.
Conte is a lawyer who, while officially non-partisan, has been openly sympathetic with the 5-Stars. The Movement championed him to head Italy’s first all-populist government, in coalition with another unnatural ally, Salvini’s League, in June 2018.