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POLITICS

Who is Carlo Cottarelli, the technocrat set to be Italy’s next PM?

Carlo Cottarelli, a former International Monetary Fund director, will face an uphill battle to form a technocrat government for Italy in the midst of a deep political crisis and populist rage at the financial "elite".

Who is Carlo Cottarelli, the technocrat set to be Italy's next PM?
Carlo Cottarelli arriving at the presidential palace. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Cottarelli, 64, was given a mandate to form a government by President Sergio Mattarella after talks between the head of state and populist parties on the cusp of forming a new government fell apart over the inclusion of eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister.

READ MORE: Italy in fresh political chaos amid calls to impeach the president

Cottarelli's appointment has already attracted the wrath of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and nationalist League, which have denounced a “premeditated” strike from Mattarella and European “lobbies” against their proposed coalition government.

The chances of the economist gaining approval for any technocrat government are slim, as Five Star and the League boil with anger at their own coalition stumbling on the home straight.

League leader Matteo Salvini said that Cottarella was a “Mister Nobody” who “represents financial institutions”, while the head of Five Star Luigi Di Maio laughed off his chances of ever gaining the endorsement of a parliament in which his and Salvini's parties command a majority.

“They've replaced a government with a majority with one that won't obtain one,” said Di Maio to supporters at a rally near Rome.

Cottarelli first joined the IMF in 1988, following six years in the Bank of Italy's Monetary and Financial Sector Division. He was director of the IMF's fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013 and became known as “Mr Scissors” for making cuts to public spending in Italy while charged with the revision of public spending by Enrico Letta's short-lived centre-left government.

Looking back on his time under Letta, Cottarelli lamented the resistance of bureaucrats in Rome to help him carry out his role, claiming that “often I wasn't even given the documents I asked for”.

In 2014 Letta's successor, Matteo Renzi, nominated him as the IMF's executive director for Italy, Greece and Malta before leaving the institution in October 2017.

Since then Cottarelli has worked as director of the Public Accounts Observatory at the Catholic University of Milan, and as a TV pundit he has offered a string of warnings about the economic cost of the Five Star and League's joint government programme, which includes huge tax cuts and a ramping up of welfare spending.

READ ALSO: How much power does the Italian president actually have?

How much power does the Italian president actually have?
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.

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