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Italy's Draghi wins support of 2 rival parties for new govt

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Leader of the Five-Stars Movement Vito Crimi, 2nd from right, addresses the media at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte resigned after a key coalition ally pulled his party's support over Conte's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, setting the stage for consultations this week to determine if he can form a third government. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Pool)

MILAN – Italian Premier-designate Mario Draghi on Saturday secured preliminary support from two key parties for forming a new government that will decide how to spend more than 200 billion euros ($240 billion) in European Union funds to help relaunch Italy's pandemic-ravaged economy.

The populist 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League both signaled support for a Draghi-led government, saying they were ready to put aside bitter rivalries for the good of the country and increasing the potential for a broad-based government of national unity.

Draghi, 73, the former president of the European Central Bank completed a first round of talks with political parties this week. Another round is expected early next week on potential Cabinet ministers and a synthesis from Draghi of his vision for the new government. He also is expected to meet with unions, business lobbies and other members of civil society.

Italy's president tapped Draghi this week to form a government after the resignation of ex-Premier Giuseppe Conte, who lost support of a small but key coalition party. Before Saturday, Draghi already lined up the support of the Democratic Party, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, former Premier Matteo Renzi’s Italy Live, and the small Free and Equal party.

After their meetings with Draghi, both 5-Star Movement leader Vito Crimi and League leader Matteo Salvini spoke about acting in the interest of Italy, the first Western nation to be struck hard by the coronavirus. With the economic fallout of the pandemic still being tallied, both acknowledged they would have to put aside political rivalries and betrayals in order to do so.

“We won’t forget the acts committed by some political forces, who are present in our memories and in our political committees,” Crimi said, in what appeared to be a reference to Renzi yanking Italy Alive's support from Conte's governing coalition and triggering its collapse.

Likewise, Salvini, a former interior minister in Conte's first government, noted that he would be sitting alongside politicians who voted to lift his parliamentary immunity so he could be put on trial in Sicily for not allowing migrant rescue ships disembark in Italy when he was minister.

“We are ready to overcome everything in the interest of the country,” Crimi said of the 5-Star Movement, which was the top vote-getter in the last parliamentary election in 2018 and a key element of both Conte governments, the first with the right-wing League and the second with the left-wing Democratic Party.

Salvini’s move to support Draghi puts him at odds with the far-right Brothers of Italy party and its leader, Giorgia Meloni. She said Friday that she would remain in opposition. Salvini cited the weight of the EU recovery funds needed to relaunch the Italian economy after a national lockdown and subsequent public health restrictions.

“I would rather be in the room where it is decided if the money is used well or not, instead of being on the outside,” he said.

Crimi said that Italy would be judged by its European partners on how it spends the considerable funds, and that the 5-Stars want to guarantee the money will be distributed “with honesty, transparency and in the exclusive interest of citizens' well-being.”

"The world is watching us and will judge if the country has changed,'' Crimi said.

Italian Senator Emma Bonino, who formerly was an EU commissioner, said she hoped that bringing together parties from such a broad political spectrum would not dissolve into infighting.

“What we don’t want is that this translates into Ýes on this, no on that, I can’t sit with him,’’ she told SKY TG24. “The priorities need to be completing the vaccination program, because without that the economy can’t be relaunched, and reform or rewrite the plan for the EU funds.”