Italy’s Renzi May Seek New Finance Chief as Price to Back Conte

Former Premier Matteo Renzi is pushing for Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri to be replaced as part of an attempt to forge a new coalition government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, according to five people familiar with the talks.

Renzi brought down the Conte-led government by pulling out of the coalition earlier this month. The move ultimately forced Conte to resign because he didn’t have a majority in the Senate.

The two men have a personal antipathy for each other and are involved in a high-stakes power tussle that has left the country without a functioning government in the middle of a drawn-out pandemic and a devastating recession. For investors, Gualtieri is a guarantee of stability with deep ties to the European Union’s policy makers, so his removal would be a worry.

The question is whether he’s sacrificed by Conte to appease Renzi, who wants a greater say over how Italy should spend its share of the EU’s recovery fund and is alarmed by the outgoing government’s increased state interventions in the economy. Renzi’s Italy Alive party is tiny but given the parliamentary math, has some leverage.

A new Conte government would see him in a weaker position, possibly with deputy premiers from the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party — Conte’s key allies — with the finance ministry going to Italy Alive, one official said. Italian media have been reporting that Renzi wants his party members well placed in any new government, which could include replacing Gualtieri and other ministers.

The following people, all with close ties with Renzi, have been floated as possible replacements: lawmakersLuigi Marattin and Maria Elena Boschi as well as the head of state revenue agency Ernesto Maria Ruffini. Renzi is a passionate supporter of the EU project. The problem investors will have is if the role of the Treasury gets bartered in the excessive politicking.

The outgoing premier remains a favorite to lead a new government, after the Five Star, the biggest party in parliament, lobbied for his return during its talks with President Sergio Mattarella, who is responsible for picking a premier-designate.

Five Star has signaled they are willing to patch up their alliance with Renzi. The center-right leaders are instead calling for early elections. Mattarella has asked speaker of the lower house Roberto Fico Friday to lead a new round of talks aimed at ending the impasse.

— With assistance by Chiara Albanese

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