Italy plunges into political crisis after govt talks collapse

Italy's Prime minister candidate Giuseppe Conte (C) leaves after a meeting with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella on May 27, 2018 at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2018
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Italy plunges into political crisis after govt talks collapse

ROME: Italy was mired in fresh political chaos after the populist parties’ bid to take power collapsed with the president set to appoint Monday a pro-austerity economist to lead a technocrat government ahead of new elections.
President Sergio Mattarella vetoed the nomination of fierce euroskeptic Paolo Savona as economy minister, enraging the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League and prompting their prime minister-elect to step aside.
“I have given up my mandate to form the government of change,” said lawyer and political novice Giuseppe Conte, 53, plunging the country into a political crisis nearly three months after March’s inconclusive general election.
Mattarella said he had accepted every proposed minister except Savona, who has called the euro a “German cage” and said that Italy needs a plan to leave the single currency “if necessary.”
The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, denounced the veto, decrying what they called meddling by Germany, ratings agencies and financial lobbies.
Mattarella has summoned Carlo Cottarelli, an economist formerly with the International Monetary Fund, for talks Monday, with a temporary technocrat government on the table as Italy faces the strong possibility of new elections in the autumn.
Cottarelli, 64, 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.
He will struggle to gain the approval of parliament with Five Star and the League commanding a majority in both houses.
“They’ve replaced a government with a majority with one that won’t obtain one,” said Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio to supporters at a rally near Rome.

A former judge of Italy’s constitutional court, Mattarella has refused to bow to what he saw as “diktats” from the two parties which he considered contrary to the country’s interests.
He had watched for weeks as Five Star and the League set about trying to strike an alliance that would give Italy’s hung parliament a majority.
Mattarella said that he has done “everything possible” to aid the formation of a government, but that an openly euroskeptic economy minister ran against the parties’ joint promise to simply “change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view.”
“I asked for the (economy) ministry an authoritative person from the parliamentary majority who is consistent with the government program... who isn’t seen as a supporter of a line that could probably, or even inevitably, provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” Mattarella said.
The president said Conte refused to support “any other solution” and then, faced with Mattarella’s refusal to approve the choice of Savona, gave up his mandate to be prime minister.
The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, were infuriated by Mattarella’s refusal to accept Savona, a respected financier and economist.
Salvini, who was Savona’s biggest advocate and a fellow euroskeptic, said on Sunday that Italy wasn’t a “colony,” and that “we won’t have Germany tell us what to do.”
“Why don’t we just say that in this country it’s pointless that we vote, as the ratings agencies, financial lobbies decide the governments,” a livid Di Maio said in a video on Facebook.
Later on Italian television he called for impeaching Mattarella.
“I hope that we can give the floor to Italians as soon as possible, but first we need to clear things up. First the impeachment of Mattarella... then to the polls,” Di Maio said


On World Refugee Day, Afghans in Pakistan fear deportation

Updated 27 min 55 sec ago
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On World Refugee Day, Afghans in Pakistan fear deportation

  • Islamabad has set June 30 as the deadline for Afghan refugees to return to their country
  • Nearly 4.2 million Afghans have been repatriated to their native country since 2002, according to the UN refugee agency

PESHAWAR: Rasool Khan, 40, and his four siblings were born in Pakistan, his family having moved there immediately after the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1978.
Both his grandfather and father were merchants and frequently visited Pakistan. “My father used to visit Pakistan for business, but in the 1970s he permanently moved there because of the war in Afghanistan,” Khan said.
But Pakistan has set June 30 as the deadline for Afghan refugees to leave the country. Khan, a representative of Afghan traders in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, said there should be a separate policy for students, businesspeople and Afghans married to Pakistani women.
“It’s not fair to deal with all Afghans under the same policy of deportation and repatriation,” he added.
With World Refugee Day being observed on June 20, Afghans living in Pakistan hope that the deadline will be extended.
Abdul Hameed, director of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, said Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) province hosts 1.1 million Afghan refugees.
Based in KP’s capital Peshawar, he expressed hope that Pakistan’s caretaker government will extend the stay of Afghan refugees.
“Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are improving, and both sides are in touch on the refugee issue,” he told Arab News.
The director general of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees in KP, Waqar Maroof, said Islamabad is considering adopting a separate policy for Afghan students, traders and those married to Pakistani women.
“Once KP’s Interior Ministry gives the go-ahead, we’ll implement the plan,” he told Arab News.
Qaiser Khan Afridi, spokesman in Pakistan for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said 4.2 million Afghans have been repatriated to their native country since 2002.
“Pakistan is the second-largest refugee host country (in the world), and it is hosting around 1.4 million Afghan registered refugees at the moment,” he added.
Islamabad says there are more than 1 million Afghans living in Pakistan without proper documentation.
“We want Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan with legal and valid documents,” said Maroof. “Afghans who were repatriated to their native country want to come to Pakistan on a valid visa and passport so they can stay here legally.”
Khan fears losing the business he and his father built over the last four decades if he is forced to go to Afghanistan.
His friend Masham Khan moved there a few months ago, but returned to Pakistan after getting a visa because “there isn’t enough business activity” in Afghanistan.