Italian President Sergio Mattarella has appointed a former IMF official to lead the government pending a vote of confidence by legislators.
Carlo Cottarelli, a pro-austerity economist, promised on Monday to put together a government “very quickly” and said new elections would be held either in August or next year.
The appointment comes shortly after Giuseppe Conte, who had been put forward by the leaders of would-be populist coalition partners Five Star Movement and the League, abandoned his mandate.
His attempts to form a government broke down when Mattarella refused to allow Paolo Savona, an outspoken critic of the EU, to take up the post of minister of economy.
“I’m not considering the individual, I don’t want someone who supports an opinion, which was expressed more than once that would inevitably lead to Italy’s exit from the euro,” Mattarella said.
On Friday, the ratings agency Moody’s threatened to downgrade Italy‘s debt rating, citing a risk that the a populist-led government might fail to reduce its public debt.
After being named interim prime minister, Cottarelli said he would present a programme that would include the 2019 budget to parliament, and dissolve the assembly if it is approved with new elections held in early 2019.
“In the absence of [parliament’s] confidence, the government would resign immediately and its main function would be the management of ordinary affairs until elections are held after the month of August,” he said.
Populist parties have grown in recent years, in part because of austerity measures brought in to reduce public debt, much of it owed to creditors in fellow EU states, most notably Germany.
The decision by the Italian president to veto Savona was called “anti-democratic” by populist leaders.
“[Mattarella] said no, he said there would not be a government. We work for nothing. We will have a technocratic government. I ask, ‘Is this a democracy?'” said League leader Matteo Salvini.
“In Italy, do the Italian voters decide or do the Germans and French decide?”
Lorenzo Fioramonti, a member of parliament for Five Star Movement told Al Jazeera: “We don’t understand the suspicion vis-a-vis us and we don’t understand the suspicion vis-a-vis the ministers that we had indicated.
“We have said it clearly during the electoral campaign in our electoral programme and in the contract that we signed with the league that we have no intention to leave the euro.”
Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio has in the past floated the possibility of a referendum on Italy’s participation in the euro as a “last resort” if Italy would not win fiscal concessions from the EU.
Di Maio called on parliament to impeach the mild-mannered Mattarella.
French President Macron on Monday voiced his support for Mattarella, who he said “has an essential task, that of his country’s institutional and democratic stability, which he is doing with much courage and a great spirit of responsibility”.
Francesco Galietti, a political risk analyst based in Rome, told Al Jazeera that Cottarelli would not be able to get the support needed to pass his budget and would essentially be a “lame duck” head of government.
“We have an unprecedented clash between the anti-establishment forces on the one hand and the establishment on the other,” he said.
“The head of state has been framed as the embodiment of the establishment … What we’ll see in the next few months is the overarching narrative; the people versus the establishment.”