Italy Opens Talks on New Government

Italy Opens Talks on New Government

ROME (AP) -- Italian President Sergio Mattarella opened two days of formal consultations Wednesday to determine if any party or coalition can muster support to form a government after the country's inconclusive March 4 elections.

Consultations started with the parliament speakers followed by minor parties, and will continue Thursday with those winning the most votes and whose positions will carry the most weight in the talks.

The populist 5-Star Movement was the single party with the highest number of votes at 32 percent while the center-right coalition led by the anti-migrant League and including former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia won 37 percent.

Neither of the two leading forces can govern alone, and no clear path to a coalition deal has emerged in the weeks since the elections.

The leader of the 5-Stars, Luigi di Maio, says he is open to a government with the League or the Democratic Party, which suffered its worst electoral loss ever. But he ruled out governing with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, citing his tax-fraud conviction that makes him ineligible for office.

The Democratic Party has said that it intends to remain in opposition, while Berlusconi's party itself has said it would not consider a government with the 5-Stars.

If Mattarella does not see conditions for a government emerging from the first round of talks, he is likely to schedule another round as soon as next week. While an impasse could lead to new elections, most analysts believe no party is eager to return to the ballot, leading instead to a softening of positions.

Neither speaker from either house nor President Emeritus Giorgio Napolitano made any statements to journalists as they emerged from the consultations.