Italy will not hold elections until the spring of 2018 as talks to reform the electoral system failed, according to the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The four largest parties had been in talks to change the way Italians vote in an effort to make a stronger government, but collapsed talks mean the legislature will likely run its course until May 2018 at the latest, Renzi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Renzi said: "It was only right to try; but now the game is closed. Now we have a horizon of almost a year before the vote.”
The talks had also included the Five Star Movement, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and the anti-immigration and anti-EU Lega Nord (Northern League).
Renzi leads the Democratic party (PD) which is in power, but the former Prime Minister resigned in December after losing a referendum on changing the Italian constitution.
The changes he supported had been aimed at making the government more efficient, but Renzi made the mistake of explicitly tying his premiership to the result. He duly resigned when his reforms were rejected.
Renzi is reportedly keen to run an election so he can return as Prime Minister with a renewed mandate, although he faces stiff opposition. Renzi today called the PD a “dam against the populists”.
The populist Five Star Movement, which was only founded in 2009 by the comedian Beppe Grillo, is running at similar levels to the Democratic party in polls.
A victory for Grillo’s party, which is opposed to Italy’s membership of the euro, could begin a period of significant instability in one of the European Union’s founding member states.