(ANSA) - Rome, May 10 - League leader Matteo Salvini and 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Luigi Di Maio said Thursday that they were making progress in talks on the formation of a new government after a meeting at the Lower House. "Significant steps forward have been made on the composition of the executive and the premier in view of a constructive collaboration between the parties with the aim of deciding everything in a short period of time to give a response and a political government to the country as soon as possible," a joint statement said. The League and the 5-Star Movement (M5S) have asked President Sergio Mattarella for more time for their talks for a possible agreement to form a new government, sources said Thursday. They have asked to be allowed to continue negotiations at least until Sunday, which means developments could emerge on Monday, the sources said. Mattarella had looked poised to give a mandate for the formation of a 'neutral' technocrat government on Wednesday, given the deadlock that followed the March general election, but the League and the M5S asked him for 24 hours for last-ditch talks on a possible new executive.
Ex-premier and Forza Italia (FI) leader Silvio Berlusconi opened the way for the talks to open in earnest late on Wednesday when he said that he would not consider the centre-right coalition to have broken down if its ally, the anti-migrant, Euroskeptic League, forms a government with the M5S. The anti-establishment group had refused to negotiate with the centre right as a whole, saying it was only willing to form an executive with the League. The League and FI govern many regions together. Berlusconi stressed, however, that FI would not vote in favour of a confidence motion on a M5S-League government. The League and the M5S would not need FI's support to have a majority in parliament because they won over half of the vote in March's general election.
"Technical" representatives of the 5-Star Movement and the League met on Thursday afternoon as part of government-formation talks. The joint statement said the meeting between Salvini and Di Maio took place "in a positive climate to set the programme and government priorities".
Security and migrant landings will be key parts of the government programme Salvini said later Thursday.
"The issue of immigration, security and landings will be a founding part of the government programme," he said. Salvini said he was "proud" that "we are talking about issues and not names".
Salvini said "we have asked President Mattarella for two or three days to seal everything" in the possible government deal, "or else we will vote".
A basic income and a flat tax are "important starting points" for the government programme, M5S MP Alfonso Bonafede said after the first government-contract talks between the two parties. He said the "first step" would be a government contract within three days.
Conflicts of interest such as that involving media magnate Berlusconi are among the issues on the agenda of the M5S-League working group, Bonafede said. "We spoke about it and there's no problem," he said. "There are no details yet on the individual measures: in these days we will work to prepare the initial proposals and then we'll get into the details".
Bonafede said the group expected to sign the government contract on Saturday.
The M5S delegation said after the talks that there had been "very many convergences" with the League, "beyond expectations", including on the flat tax and immigration as well as "total harmony" on scrapping the 2011 Fornero pension law. Meanwhile the possibility of a "staffetta" or "baton change" between the League and the M5S for the premiership was aired.
Third-party names were also touted including the IMF's Carlo Cottarelli, former unheeded spending review honcho and former labour minister Enrico Giovannini.
If the League is to have the premiership, if only for a spell, former Andreotti defence lawyer Giulia Bongiorno and Lower House Whip Giancarlo Gioregtti have been floated.