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Rome

M5s, PD govt talks get off to 'constructive' start

MP cut fundamental says M5S, PD says broad agreement

M5s, PD govt talks get off to 'constructive' start

Rome, August 23 - The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) on Friday started talks both sides described as "constructive" on possibly forming a coalition government replacing the M5S's alliance with the nationalist League which League leader Matteo Salvini sank earlier this month. "There are no unsurmountable problems", texted one of the Democratic Party PD delegation members after the first session of the talks. PD Senate Whip Andrea Marcucci said that "the meeting took place in a positive and constructive climate, which makes us hope for the best on the prospects (for a deal)". PD House Whip Graziano Delrio said that "there was broad agreement on the points of the environmental and social agenda. There is very serious work to be done on the budget bill, on the priorities". PD deputy leader Andrea Orlando said that "we will prepare the dossiers necessary for talks on all the issues of the programmatic agenda, we await approval by the leaders of the two parties. We want to be operational in the next few hours". Orlando said the PD had asked that the M5S exclusively talk to the PD and not hold any talks with former ally the League. A statement from the PD delegation said the party has always been in favour of cutting MP numbers, and remains so, but this must be "accompanied by constitutional guarantees and rules on parliamentary workings". "This is the sense of the calendar that we are willing to build together and in quick time," said the delegation formed by deputy party leader Andrea Orelando and the Senate and House whips, Andrea Marcucci and Graziano Delrio. M5S sources said that the talks had taken place in a "constructive climate" too. They said the M5s had stressed the need to cut 345 MPs as a "fundamental point" for any alliance. "We need guarantees on this aspect," the M5S sources said. M5S House Whip Francesco D'Uva said the success of the talks depends on agreeing the cut in MPs. "All the dialogue on the rest depends on the MP cut," he said. D'Uva said the M5S did not have other talks ongoing with other parties, ruling out any revival of an alliance with the League. M5S Senate Whip Stefano Patuanelli also said the first session of the talks had not thrown up any "unsurmountable obstacles". "We don't have any other dates set yet, the climate is constructive, we are interested in the points at the centre of our policies," he said. President Sergio Mattarella has given the former fierce foes until Tuesday or Wednesday to try to put together a new government to last until the end of the legislative term in 2023. M5S leader Luigi Di Maio laid down 10 conditions for the government including a conflict of interest law, reform of State broadcaster RAI, cutting the tax wedge, a minimum wage, justice reform, green policies and, crucially, a reduction in the number of MPs and Senators from 945 to 600, not counting five life Senators. PD leader Nicola Zingaretti set five conditions including a change from Salvini's tough anti-migrant stance and his closed-ports policy for NGO migrant rescue ships. The PD was initially reported to be against cutting the number of MPs but is now said to be coming round to the idea, as part of a wider electoral reform restoring 100% proportional representation. As part of any deal, the two parties would also have to come up with a proposed premier and there is speculation Italy might get its first woman premier in former justice minister Paola Severino, or Constitutional Court Vice President Marta Cartabia. Mattarella will hold fresh consultations on resolving the government crisis on Tuesday. It is not clear wether they will be held on a single day, or spill over into Wednesday. The head of State has asked for a "solid and lasting" coalition to serve out the term to 2023, saying that early elections, probably on October 27, are the only alternative. The new government will have to pass the 2021 budget law and avert a 23-billion-euro VAT hike. The two delegations spoke for about two hours. Amid reports of PD infighting ahead of the talks, Di Maio said the centre-left group was "already quarrelling even before the talks have started". "These people are already quarrelling, we knew them quite well, unfortunately..let them get their ideas straight", "he said, reiterating that cutting MPs from 945 to 600 was "the start of any talks, it must be done at once". "If you don't have the first point there's nothing else," he said. The M5S leader was speaking after former PD leader and ex-premier Matteo Renzi accused former premier and now PD Chair Paolo Gentiloni of wanting to sink the M5S-PD bid by setting the condition that the M5S would have to give up on the MP cut. That alleged attempt by Gentiloni has failed, Renzi said. Zingaretti strongly denied any such attempt on the part of the PD chair and former premier. Gentiloni never made any "manoeuvre" to sink PD-5-Star government talks and saying so is "ridiculous and offensive," Zingaretti said Friday, denying Renzi's claim. "We are in the midst of extremely delicate consultations and we are all working together to reach a difficult objective," Zingaretti said. "This is to give life to a turning-point government to change Italy; and this needs a united spirit, to defend the contents, history and values of the Democratic Party". "I must once again, for the umpteenth time, make an appeal for responsibility: fundamental to reach this objective is to stop the continual proliferation of communiqués, quips, interviews which, indeed, put everything at risk and undermine our credibility". There were reports late Friday that Di Maio and Zingaretti would meet over the weekend, but M5S sources denied this.

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