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Italian Opposition Ready to Talk About Alliance With Five Star

Jerrold Colten, Lorenzo Totaro and Chiara Albanese

(Bloomberg) -- Italian President Sergio Mattarella begins intensive talks with political leaders Wednesday to determine whether a new ruling coalition is viable, as the head of one of the country’s main parties signaled willingness to explore a new parliamentary majority.

Those are the two main options emerging for the head of state after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday, little more than a year after taking over a populist alliance of the League Party and Five Star Movement.

Mattarella, who has the sole power to appoint governments and call elections, is ready to give Five Star and the opposition Democratic Party, or PD, time to strike a deal, although the extension would be days rather than weeks, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

“It is now our turn to move and show the way ahead,” PD leader Nicola Zingaretti said on Wednesday. “We should be open to seeing if there is the possibility of a new parliamentary majority able to address the issues the country faces.”

Consultations with Mattarella will start at 4 p.m. in Rome, though talks with the bigger parties aren’t due until the following day. The PD also holds an internal meeting Wednesday, where it’s expected to discuss the party’s line on discussions with Five Star.

In a belligerent address to parliament, Conte declared Tuesday that the coalition featuring Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League was dead. But he could still return as the head of another majority if Mattarella judges it could offer some stability to the country.

Salvini, 46, pulled his support from the governing alliance with the anti-establishment Five Star this month, seeking to cash in on strong poll ratings and attempting to wrong-foot the political establishment with a mid-summer power grab while parliament was in recess.

Bond investors have instead welcomed the prospect of an alternative coalition that could forestall a snap election.

In Conte’s fiery appearance in the Senate Tuesday, he left no one in any doubt as to who he blames for the demise of his government.

Conte charged that the League leader’s demand for an election was self-interested and irresponsible. With Salvini sitting alongside him in parliament, he took his nemesis to task for his non-stop campaigning, saying it isn’t in Italy’s interest to hold elections every year.

The premier also accused his deputy of not properly responding to allegations in the so-called Russiagate case and said he had overstepped his role as minister.

Salvini countered that the unruly coalition, which lasted just over a year, wasn’t brought down by him but by the fictitious “Signore No” he likes to invoke to demonstrate inactivity and inertia among his political enemies.

“I’d do it all over again if I had another chance,” Salvini told Senators.

Salvini also claimed the League is ready with a 50 billion-euro ($55 billion) budget plan that will allow for tax cuts and more spending, and ridiculed Five Star for considering an alliance with the PD -- a group they’ve spent years attacking.

“I’m not afraid of a PD-Five Star alliance,” Salvini said.

The back-and-forth of Tuesday’s proceedings in parliament shows that Five Star and the PD have been in contact for weeks, Salvini charged, in comments to reporters in Rome, wishing his former coalition partners “good luck” if they decide to work together with the PD.

--With assistance from Marco Bertacche, Tommaso Ebhardt and Daniele Lepido.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jerrold Colten in Milan at jcolten@bloomberg.net;Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at ltotaro@bloomberg.net;Chiara Albanese in Rome at calbanese10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Iain Rogers, Chad Thomas

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