Italy’s Democrats reject kingmaker role after Renzi resigns

MILAN (AP) — Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi formally resigned Monday as leader of the Democratic Party following its crushing election defeat, with the interim leader maintaining the party line of refusing a kingmaker role in a new Italian government.

No party or coalition won enough votes to govern alone in the March 4 parliamentary vote, setting the stage for arduous talks to see if either the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement or the center-right coalition led by the anti-immigrant League can form a stable government.

The 5-Stars won the most votes of any party, and the coalition would control more seats in parliament as a bloc.

Maurizio Martina, the outgoing agriculture minister who was named as the Democratic Party’s interim leader, made clear that the center-left would not take part in any new government, as Renzi had insisted before his resignation.

After a contentious election campaign, Martina said the League and the 5-Stars “don’t have any alibis now,” and should “take their responsibility” to form a government.

While the 5-Star Movement has said it would speak with anyone willing to find common ground, the League, led by Matteo Salvini, has indicated it is far from the 5-Stars on key issues, including how to make Italy’s economic recovery more inclusive.

Salvini is pushing for a flat tax to boost state coffers and to fight rampant tax evasion, while the 5-Stars have promised a minimum income to qualifying citizens that Salvini has dismissed as a handout.

The new parliament is scheduled to hold its first session March 23. The first task will be electing a speaker of each house. The votes are expected to signal possible majorities to President Sergio Mattarella, who has the tough job of choosing a premier candidate who is most likely to succeed in putting together a government with the best chances of enduring.

The 5-Stars won 32 percent of the vote, to the center-right’s 37 percent — while the Democratic party slid to under 20 percent.

Talks are expected to go on for weeks, if not months. The formation of Italy’s government is being closely watched in Europe, not only because of the risk posed by Italy’s high public debt, at 132 percent of GDP, but also for a signal of the role of euroskeptic populists in the eurozone’s third largest economy.

Renzi, who immediately after the election said he would stay on through the formation of a new government, did not attend the leadership meeting in Rome. He said in a short communication that he would explain his resignation during an assembly planned for next month. The party is expected to pick a new leader at a party congress after a new government is formed.

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