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Italian populist says he and rival have deal on new premier

May 20, 2018
FILE - In this Saturday, May 19, 2018 file photo, the League party leader Matteo Salvini, center, arrives to vote on a program with the 5-Star Movement that could clear the way to Italy's first populist government, in Milan, Italy. One of Italy’s two main populist leaders says he and his rival have finally agreed on who should be premier, and it’s neither of them. Exactly 11 weeks after elections resulted in political gridlock, League leader Matteo Salvini told reporters Sunday he and 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio have snagged a deal on both who should head Italy’s next government and choice of Cabinet ministers. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File )

ROME (AP) — One of Italy’s two main populist leaders said Sunday that he and his rival finally have agreed on who should be the next premier — neither of them -- in what would be the nation’s first populist-led government.

Exactly 11 weeks after a parliamentary election with inconclusive results created political gridlock, League leader Matteo Salvini said he and 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio have settled both on a choice for premier and the makeup of the Cabinet.

In that coalition government, which should take power soon, “neither I nor Di Maio” will be premier, Salvini told reporters.

He and Di Maio will reveal their premier pick to Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Their agreed on candidate, he said, “mirrors the vote of the majority of Italians” on March 4.

Italian media say the president, who is head of state, is expected to summon the two political leaders to the presidential palace on Monday.

If Mattarella is convinced their choice can muster a solid majority in Parliament, he can give a mandate to the premier-designate to try to forge a coalition government that would have to win confidence votes in both chambers,

“Obviously, the prerogative is now in the hands of the president, he’ll decide the steps to take,” Di Maio said.

Right after the March parliamentary election, Di Maio and Salvini each staked a claim to be premier.

Di Maio’s 5-Stars won some 32 percent of the vote, making the movement Parliament’s largest party and positioning it to enter government for the first time.

Salvini’s anti-migrant League, a euroskeptic party like the movement, took 17 percent, the best showing among the factions in a center-right campaign coalition.

The coalition, which included former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, is now Parliament’s largest bloc, but far short of an absolute majority. Berlusconi refused to ally Forza Italia in any coalition with the 5-Stars, saying the antiestablishment movement was dangerous to democracy.

After weeks of dead-end negotiations involving various other combinations of political forces, including the outgoing center-left Democrats, Mattarella asked Salvini and Di Maio to see if they could unite in a viable coalition.

Together, their lawmakers account for just over 50 percent of the seats in Parliament.

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