Renzi Seen Keeping Italy Waiting on Option of Staying On

  • President asked Renzi whether wants to stay on, or favors vote
  • Three days of talks with political parties end on Saturday

What You Need to Know About Italy's Anti-EU Movement

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is keeping Italy waiting. The outgoing premier has yet to tell the head of state whether he would be willing to stay on despite his defeat in a constitutional referendum.

As President Sergio Mattarella holds talks with party leaders for a second day on Friday in the struggle to find a premier, he wants to hear whether Renzi would agree to be re-appointed, or whether he would back a figure he trusts as a successor, according to a state official who asked not to be named because the issue is confidential.

Successors whom Renzi, 41, could back include Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, and Transport Minister Graziano Delrio, the official said. Although weakened by his defeat in Sunday’s referendum, Renzi’s word still carries weight as leader of the Democratic Party, the biggest in parliament.

As Mattarella led three days of consultations with political parties which end on Saturday, Renzi returned to Rome after a brief break in his Tuscan home, and met Gentiloni and Padoan at his office, according to newswire Ansa.

Time to resolve the uncertainty may be running short, after the European Central Bank rejected lender Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA’s request for more time to ready a 5 billion-euro ($5.4 billion) capital increase, boosting the likelihood of a state bailout that would impose losses on shareholders and bondholders, according to people briefed on the matter.

Renzi Stay

Mattarella favors Renzi staying on, newspaper La Repubblica reported, and wants to reach a decision on Monday -- to ensure Italy has a newly appointed premier at the European Union summit in Brussels on Dec. 15. The president would ask Renzi to verify whether he still has a parliamentary majority with confidence votes in both houses, the newspaper said.

After almost three years in power, Renzi faces a dilemma.

If he stays on, he would lead efforts to change the electoral law which mainstream parties want to alter because it is now different for each house, and it gives an automatic majority to the leading party in the lower house. They fear the winner could be the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which wants a referendum on whether to leave the euro area.

The downside for Renzi is that he had promised to resign if he lost the referendum, and he would face a potential backlash from voters in the next election, with opposition parties accusing him of going back on his word. Whether led by Renzi or not, the next government is expected to last only until the first half of next year.

Five Star’s Luigi di Maio, deputy speaker of the lower house, said Renzi should stay on as a caretaker premier but only until just after the Constitutional Court reviews the electoral law for the lower house on Jan. 24. “Renzi couldn’t do any damage because he could only do routine administration,” Di Maio told Sky Tg24 television. The next scheduled elections are not until early 2018.

Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, head of the center-right Forza Italia (FI), will tell Mattarella when they meet on Saturday that he wants a new electoral law and then early elections, FI senator Altero Matteoli told reporters.

Broad-based Government

Lorenzo Guerini, deputy-secretary of Renzi’s PD, declined to say whether it preferred a broad-based new government, or early elections. “We’re waiting to hear whether all the political forces, starting with those which backed ‘No’ and said in the election campaign that we should vote immediately afterwards, will confirm their position to the head of state,” Guerini told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

In a speech to his party leadership on Wednesday, Renzi outlined two options: either early elections in early 2017 after the Court verdict on the electoral law, or the formation of a grand coalition that would change that law.

When Renzi formally handed in his resignation to Mattarella on Wednesday, the president delayed accepting. Mattarella had already asked Renzi to put his resignation on hold until the Senate approved the 2017 budget, which it did earlier on Wednesday.

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