Italy's president Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday delayed picking a 'neutral' head of a caretaker cabinet after the leaders of the populist Five-Star Movement and the far-right League said they needed 24 hours to try and negotiate an accord on a new government.
"The Five-Star Movement and the League have informed the Presidency of the Republic that talks are taking place with a view to a possible government accord and that in order to do so they require a further 24 hours," said a statement from Mattarella's office.
Five-Star and the League have the numbers to govern in coalition but have so far failed to agree on a tie-up since the inconclusive 4 March national polls. Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio has refused to back down on his demand that League leader Matteo Salvini break with his conservative ally Silvio Berluconi, who heads the centre-right Forza Italia party.
Five-Star, which vows to clean up Italian politics and rid the country of corruption, refuses to govern with Berlusconi, who has a tax fraud conviction, trial for bribery, and has been embroiled in numerous scandals.
Faced with this veto, Salvini is trying to convince Forza Italia party to give external support to a Five-Star-League government, and to persuade Di Maio to accept this compromise.
In an interview with Radio Capital, Salvini said he would "try until the end" to overcome the obstacle represented by Berlusconi, a key member of the League-led conservative alliance.
Another issue on the negotiating table is the job of prime minister - Di Maio heads Italy's largest party while Salvini is the head of the largest political bloc in the hung parliament and both covet the role.
Sources told Adnkronos on Wednesday there was a "75-per-cent" chance of a breakthrough in the last-ditch talks between Salvini and Di Maio.
Mattarella on Monday said lawmakers should accept a 'neutral' caretaker government to oversee fresh elections sometime this year after several rounds of talks with political leaders on new government collapsed.