International News

Italian president appoints ex-IMF official Cottarelli as interim PM, gives him mandate to form govt.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has appointed Carlo Cottarelli, a former senior director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as interim prime minister, giving him mandate to form a government ahead of snap elections in the country, which has been without a government for two months.
Cottarelli made the announcement after a meeting with Mattarella on Monday, saying he would put together a transitional government “very quickly” and lead the country to fresh elections slated in the fall or early next year.
“I have accepted the task to form a government as the president has asked. As an Italian I am very honored by this task and I will do my best,” Cottarelli said.
The former senior IMF official also told reporters that he would soon return to parliament with a budget program to be put to the vote for approval.
“I will present myself to parliament with a program, which, if it wins the backing of parliament, would include the passage of the 2019 budget, and then parliament would be dissolved with elections at the beginning of 2019,” he said.
“In the absence of a confidence (vote), the government would resign immediately and its main function would be the management of ordinary affairs until elections are held after August 2018,” Cottarelli added.
The appointment came after anti-establishment forces abandoned efforts to form a ruling coalition in the European country and hit a standoff with the president over his refusal to endorse a eurosceptic pick for the post of finance minister.
Mattarella vetoed the nomination of Paolo Savona as economy minister in a coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League party.
The 76-year-old president said he would accept every proposed minister except Savona, who had formerly asserted that Italy’s entry into the European Union’s single currency, euro, was a “historic mistake.”
Mattarella stressed that he had done “everything possible” to aid the formation of a government but an openly eurosceptic economy minister ran against the parties’ joint promise to simply “change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view.”
The two populist parties accused Mattarella of betraying voters and later dropped their plan to take power.
Mattarella’s action sparked angry calls for his impeachment and the chaos sent Italian stocks tumbling by as much as two percent at one stage.
Cottarelli, 64, is widely known at home as “Mr. Scissors” for making cuts to public spending. To become prime minister, he is required to gain the approval of parliament with Five Star and the League holding a majority in both houses.
Italy — a founding member of the European Union — has been without a government since an election in early March when Five Star and League emerged as the biggest parties.
The two parties have vowed to battle the EU over its financial and immigration policies. The two have formerly been open to the possibility of Italy holding a referendum on euro.
The prospect of a eurosceptic government in Rome has concerned EU leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are pushing for further political and economic integration.