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Prominent politicians including League leader Matteo Salvini are looking for high-ranking roles in the next Italian government, senior officials from major parties told MNI, after their groupings stepped up talks to plan for the likely departure of Prime Minister Mario Draghi in order to move to the national presidency.

While Draghi filled his top ministerial posts with technocratic appointments, party leaders such as Salvini, together with the Democratic Party’s Enrico Letta and the Five Star Movement’s Giuseppe Conte, will want a higher profile in the run-up to 2023’s national elections, the officials said.

Arguments over who gets which job are likely to be fierce. But, with Draghi looking likely to take the presidency despite a noisy bid for the role by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the major parties in the current coalition agree on the need to avoid early elections and are also keen to influence a possible reform later this year of rules governing parliamentary elections.

The crucial issue of who would succeed Draghi as prime minister, though, is proving a thorny one in talks between the parties. While possible candidates include Justice Minister Marta Cartabia and Finance Minister Daniele Franco, parties do not yet agree on who should oversee a difficult reining in of public expenditures following pandemic fiscal stimulus.

The prime minister will also have the politically touchy job of overseeing spending of early instalments of more than 190 billion in NextGenerationEU funds, as well as structural reforms necessary in order to qualify for the EU pandemic aid money, party officials noted.

PRESIDENTIAL INFLUENCE

In keeping with protocol, Draghi has not openly declared his readiness to move to the presidency, to be decided in a secret ballot over the next two weeks. But “the gravitational forces of politics” are supporting his candidacy for the role, which, while ceremonial, would allow him to influence the country’s politics for a seven-year term, according to a senior official from the centre-left Democratic Party. (See MNI:Draghi Tells Staff To Gauge Market Impact Of President Bid)

Draghi’s name should gather a broad consensus among the more than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional representatives who will participate in the vote, sources agreed. While both right and left parties would probably opt for different presidents if they could, the respected former European Central Bank chief is a name all sides can live with, they said.

The prime minister’s presidential chances received a further boost on Tuesday, when a prominent backer of Berlusconi, Vittorio Sgarbi, said he had given up trying to canvas votes for his candidate.

Sgarbi’s tacit admission that Berlusconi’s bid is doomed has made it easier for the major political parties to meet to discuss other candidates including Draghi, a senior official from the right-wing League told MNI.

“We could not be seen not to back [Berlusconi],” the League official said, noting that the governing coalition would be endangered if Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party pulled out, “But there are people who wish he would drop out of the race soon.”

The tenuous grasp that several major party leaders have over their groupings also favours Draghi, sources said. Neither Conte nor Letta have the strength to risk imposing other candidates without fuelling tensions which could increase the risk of early elections, they said.

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