A last-ditch effort to form a new Italian government after an inconclusive election two months ago failed on Monday, with the leading parties demanding that the country go back to the polls in July.
The failure to break the impasse came after a long day of talks between all the parties and Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s president, in his palatial residence on the Quirinal Hill in Rome.
Speaking after the end of the consultations, the president said that he favoured the creation of a “neutral” government that would remain in place until December at the latest, with another election to be held in 2019.
If there is not enough parliamentary support for such an administration, then fresh elections could be held in July or the autumn, he said.
The president’s lack of a clear decision appeared likely to consign Italy to weeks more political uncertainty.
Both the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the hard-Right League had earlier rejected the idea of an interim government led by an impartial, apolitical figure and called for an election on July 8.
That would be a first for the country – millions of Italians flock to the beach in the summer and since the end of the Second World War, elections have always been held in the spring.
Five Star had been prepared to form a government with The League, but only if the Right-wing party ditch their ally Silvio Berlusconi – a demand that was refused.
Luigi Di Maio, the head of Five Star, said the failure to reach an accord effectively meant a second election campaign was underway.
“From today, we are in a new election campaign," Mr Di Maio told his supporters on Facebook.
"I know we are asking for a big sacrifice from you to go and vote again, but I don’t see any possible alternative. We have done everything we could."
Italy has been in limbo since the general election in March, when no party or bloc won an outright majority.
Click Here: camiseta boca juniors
Five Star was the most popular single party, winning 32 per cent of the vote, while a conservative coalition led by The League and Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party attracted 37 per cent.
Weeks of ill-tempered arguing, mud-slinging and consultations with the president failed to produce a way out of the deadlock.
Both Mr Di Maio and Mr Salvini had insisted that they had the mandate to become prime minister and form a government.