Mario Draghi begins the final round of talks with smaller parties on forming a new Italian government, followed by separate meetings with key players including M5S, PD, and the League.
Ex-central banker Mario Draghi has opened a final round of talks on forming a new Italian government, as the virus-hit country enters its third week of political crisis.
The former president of the European Central Bank (ECB), who is holding talks on Monday with several parties, is under pressure to secure the parliamentary support he needs to be sworn in as prime minister before the end of the week.
However, the surprising eagerness of Matteo Salvini's far-right and eurosceptic League party to back the ultra-Europhile Draghi is complicating coalition building.
The League has fraught relations with both the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), the two other key players expected to get on board the new administration.
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Italy's anti-establishment M5S, the largest group in parliament, said on Monday it will hold an online vote of its members on whether to support a government led by Draghi.
The vote will begin on February 10 at 1200 GMT and will end 24 hours later, 5-Star's official website said.
The 5-Star Movement had initially ruled out backing Draghi, but after meeting him on Saturday its leader Vito Crimi said he was open to considering supporting him on the basis of the policies he proposes.
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Italy has been without a fully functioning government for almost a month since the centre-left coalition collapsed, forcing Giuseppe Conte to resign as prime minister.
Draghi was brought in by Italy's president last week to form a new national unity government to face the devastating health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Draghi is holding the final round of talks with smaller parties before meeting M5S, PD, and the League on Tuesday.
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Technocrats vs politicians
One of the key issues still open is the extent to which Draghi's cabinet should be made up of technocrats or include politicians, at least partially.
Giving politicians a seat at the table could increase their loyalty to the government, but also risks a repeat of the inter-party bickering that brought down Conte's cabinet.
As things stand, Draghi could have parliamentary support stretching from the leftist Free and Equals to the League, with only the Brothers of Italy, another far-right party, in opposition.
On Saturday, Salvini listed the arrival of $240 billion in European Union economic recovery funds as one of the reasons to join the government.
"I'd rather be in the room where it gets decided whether that money is used well or used badly, rather than be an outside spectator," he said.
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Draghi's government formation process
Draghi is expected to report back on Wednesday to President Sergio Mattarella on whether he can form a government.
He would then need to present a list of ministers and take office with his cabinet following a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace — something that could happen by Friday.
The installment of the new government would be completed by votes of confidence in the two houses of parliament, where Draghi would spell out his agenda.
Last week, when Mattarella called him in, the 73-year-old said Italy urgently needed to "beat the pandemic" and relaunch its economy.
More than 91,000 people with Covid-19 have died in Italy and last year nearly 450,000 people lost their jobs while the economy shrank by around nine percent.
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