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December 08, 2016

ROME (AP) — A leader of Italy’s populist 5-Star Movement is pressing for a vote on whether the country should keep the euro as its official currency, a pitch for support as the party eyes national power for the first time.

Alessandro Di Battista, one of the populist party’s several leaders, said in comments published Thursday in La Repubblica newspaper that “euro and Europe aren’t the same thing.” “We want only that the Italians decide,” Di Battista said, suggesting the party might push for a referendum on abandoning the single currency.

Movement founder Beppe Grillo has long railed against Italy’s membership in the eurozone, the 19 countries where the euro is the official currency. The Movement, Parliament’s second-largest party, is hoping to gain the premiership following Matteo Renzi’s resignation Wednesday night as head of Italy’s center-left government.

Renzi’s tenure came to an abrupt end when voters by a wide margin rejected constitutional reforms he had made an essential goal of his nearly three years in office. The next national election is not scheduled until 2018, but the 5-Star Movement and other opposition parties have started advocating for voting to take place earlier.

President Sergio Mattarella, as head of state, opened formal talks Thursday as he weighs who should get the mandate to try to form a new government to lead in the meantime. The heads of both chambers of Parliament, as well as Mattarella’s predecessor as president, Giorgio Napolitano, left the presidential palace without commenting to reporters about their meetings.

Mattarella is scheduled to start consulting the leaders of Italy’s political parties on Friday, beginning with representatives from the parties with the smallest number of seats in Parliament. He expects to finish the talks on Saturday after meeting with Renzi’s Democrats, the 5-Star Movement, the anti-migrant Northern League and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia.

Some Democrats, whose party is the largest in Parliament, are lobbying for the broadest possible coalition government to guide the country to elections. Whoever succeeds in cobbling a governing coalition will have overhauling Italy’s election law as an urgent first task.

Parts of the current law are being challenged in the Constitutional Court, which plans to rule in late January. Even if the challenges are rebuffed, lawmakers are insisting on new rules for electing the Senate.

The defeated constitutional reforms would have made the Senate of Parliament no longer elected by voters. Unless lawmakers fashion a fresh electoral law for the upper chamber, the country risks going to the polls with one set a rules for electing the lower Chamber of Deputies, and another for the Senate. Many political leaders predict that would invite government gridlock.

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