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Italy's opposition League Party is torn over whether to join in a government under prime-minister-designate Mario Draghi or to passively allow him to take office via parliamentary abstentions, as the former European Central Bank chief seeks "high-profile politicians" from major parties to join an administration set to be tasked with administering tens of billions of euros in European Covid aid money, sources close to Draghi and the far-right party told MNI.

By drawing groups like the centre-left Democratic Party and the centre-right Forza Italia into his fold, Draghi hopes to avoid the attrition suffered by an earlier technocratic government, under Mario Monti, which started with ample support from parliament only to see it ebb away, a source close to Draghi told MNI.

While the former ECB president, assisted by aides with ties to the Bank of Italy, seems already to have sufficient support, once possible abstentions are factored in, to form a government, its make-up could shape many of its policies.

The populist Five-Star Movement, the largest force in both parliament and the last two Italian governments, is still reeling from the fall of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and would demand that Draghi continues with many of his policies. It also rejects the idea of seeking a loan from the European Stability Mechanism, a Five-Star source preparing the party's meeting with Draghi on Saturday told MNI. Conte and former party leader Luigi Di Maio have publicly backed Draghi, but it is unclear whether they would be open to joining his government.

SPLITS IN THE LEAGUE

The far-right League is torn between abstention and joining a Draghi administration. The party's more eurosceptic wing, which includes leader Matteo Salvini, sees Draghi as a representative of the EU elite, but more pro-business elements led by Giancarlo Giorgetti want to work within the next government to tilt it towards a low tax, anti-red-tape agenda, a Lega source close to Giorgetti told MNI, adding that a "deep revision" of Italy's Recovery Plan designed to access emergency European Covid funds was also necessary.

Those within the League favouring support for Draghi see it as a boost to their party's credibility as it seeks to join the European People's Party, the main conservative grouping in the European Parliament. But, if the League did join Draghi, it would insist on only a short term in office for him, sources said.

Other parties are also making demands, eyeing ministries and key roles in administering the Recovery Plan, which will shape the spending of EUR209 billion in European grants and credits. The Democratic Party wants former Finance minister Roberto Gualtieri to stay in government, while Forza Italia's Senate Vice President Lucio Malan says his party wants its share of prominent positions.

The probable next prime minister is playing his cards close to his chest about his plans for government, other than to conclude work on the Recovery Plan and send it to Brussels to access the European cash. He would also aim to undertake reforms, called for by the European Commission, of the public administration, the justice system, and of laws on work and public spending.