Over a month has passed since Italy took to the ballot box — in one of the lowest election turnouts in recent history — to elect a new government and the country’s next prime minister, but so far little has happened.

The country’s main parties are working to decide on an Italian leader, though it’s anyone’s guess how long the government could be stuck in limbo.

Last week Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella began the first round of meetings with representatives from the major parties where they pitched him their candidate most likely to win cross-party support and succeed in forming a government.

However, if no agreement can be reached Italy will be sent back to the polls and that seems increasingly likely.

According to bookies, the race to become Italy’s next prime minister is between Matteo Salvini’s Northern League and 5Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio.

Berlusconi, who had rather poor results at the election, is not eligible to become PM due to legal issues, though could be trying to push for a Forza Italia politician to take his place.

Verdict has examined the most likely candidates and what impact their appointment as Prime Minister would have on a national and international level.

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The parties as they stand

March’s election resulted in the populist 5Star Movement becoming the largest party in the country though without a majority — meanwhile, a coalition led by former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Salvini’s Northern League earned the most votes.

Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party ended the race in third place.

Last week the Northern League and 5Star Movement elected their representatives in Parliament.

  1. Luigi Di Maio, 5Star Movement

At the age of 31, Luigi Di Maio has gone from being an aspiring journalist with no degree, to a stadium steward, then to vice president of the Chamber of Deputies and, now, he could be the new Italian Prime Minister.

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One of the founders of the 5Star Movement together with comedian-turned-political activist Giuseppe Grillo, Di Maio is perhaps the biggest winner from the 2018 election, gaining 32.2% of the vote and making 5Star the largest party in Italy.

The 5Star Movement has come to represent the spirit of change and general unhappiness towards the status quo that has gripped the country over the past few years.

5Star has made increasing the minimum monthly income (currently €780) of the main points of its campaign, alongside repealing around 400 laws it calls “useless” and strengthening ties with Russia.

Despite 5Star being a long term critic of the Euro in the months leading up to the election, Di Maio softened his Eurosceptic rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Di Maio’s lack of experience in Italian politics has sometimes resulted in gaffes, the most famous being when he said that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was from Venezuela.

The 5Star Movement has said it’s open to working with Salvini and the Democratic Party but is particularly against Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

  1. Matteo Salvini, Northern League

Matteo Salvini beat out the odds to triumph over Silvio Berlusconi as the leader of the centre-right coalition, with 18% of votes.

The win put him in a position to make decisions for the coalition and seek dialogue with the 5Star Movement.

Under Salvini’s leadership, despite being born as a regional party, the Northern League found support nationwide.

Throughout his career, Salvini has been a controversial figure — speaking against gypsies, immigrants, the European Union and suggesting the north and south of Italy should be separated.

An admirer of US President Donald Trump, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin and China, Salvini campaigned against European Central Bank policies, for the introduction of a parallel Italian currency, for a flat tax of 15%, and the repatriation of 100,000 immigrants per year. And — a big vote winner — the reopening of brothels in Italy.

Despite allying with Berlusconi in the months before the election, Salvini does not have many traits in common with Forza Italia and is more keen on negotiating with Di Maio.

  1. Giancarlo Giorgetti, Northern League

Despite him not being particularly well known in Italian politics, bookies have put Giancarlo Giorgetti as the third most likely candidate to become prime minister.

Now 51 years old, Giorgetti has been an ambassador of the Northern League’s manifesto since the 1990s. Giorgetti worked closely with former Northern League leader Umberto Bossi.

A private man who rarely goes on TV, many describe him as the person responsible for keeping the balance inside the Northern League.

In case of appointment, he would certainly pursue the party’s primary policies, though probably in a more moderate and soft way than his leader.

Giorgetti is less skeptic of the EU than Salvini and is a great admirer of European Central Bank president Mario Draghi. Giorgetti also has strong ties with political bodies overseas, especially the US.

Giorgetti is less radical than his colleagues and for Salvini could represent an ideal candidate for Prime Minister if the Northern League teams up with the 5Star Movement.

  1. Antonio Tajani, Forza Italia

While bookies still have Antonio Tajani as a possible runner to become Italy’s prime minister the chances that former European Parliament president Antonio Tajani getting the top job are low.

Berlusconi named him the candidate for Forza Italia since he was not eligible due to tax fraud convictions.

Yet Tajani has never been a charismatic leader neither at the European Parliament nor in Italy. A Social-Democrat MEP recently said he is the “typical Christian Democrat who tries to never clash with anyone”.

Italians are clearly no longer satisfied with Italy’s traditional parties and Tajani does not represent the change people want.

In the last few days, Berlusconi has tried to have his say in the negotiations but has been flatly rebuffed by Di Maio and, partially, Salvini, who have been gradually excluding Forza Italia from decisions.

However, in the — still unlikely — case these two fail to find a premier, Tajani could turn out to be a useful tool, especially if the aim is to find stability or force new elections.