By Angelo Amante and Giuseppe Fonte
ROME (Reuters) - The leader of Italy's 5-Star Movement on Wednesday rescheduled an online party vote on whether to support a government led by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, urging its members to vote yes.
Draghi, who received the mandate to form a new cabinet after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned, has held two rounds of talks with political parties to muster a parliamentary majority to face the country's twin coronavirus and economic crises.
The 5-Star has the largest number of lawmakers. With pledges of support from a host of groups from left to right, Draghi does not need their votes but an absence would undermine his efforts to build a national unity alliance.
The party's leadership postponed the poll initially scheduled for Wednesday after opposition from some of its lawmakers, which risked tearing apart the anti-establishment party and delaying creation of the cabinet.
In a long post on the party's official website, leader Vito Crimi said Draghi supported many of the 5-Star flagship policies introduced in recent years, including income support for the poor.
The wording of the question for 5-Star supporters was: "Do you agree that the Movement should support a government of technocrats and politicians, with the other parties indicated by Prime Minister designate Mario Draghi, which includes a high-powered ministry for ecological transition and defends the main results achieved by 5-Star?"
The vote will begin on Thursday at 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) and will finish at 6 p.m on the same day.
As usual for such a major decision, 5-Star had been expected to consult its members before taking the final decision.
5-Star was born in 2009 as an anti-system, anti-euro protest party and it has formed the backbone of the last two coalition governments, which both collapsed following rows with allies.
Posts on the party blog suggest many members are uneasy at the prospect of hooking up with a former president of the European Central Bank, despite calls from the movement's founder, Beppe Grillo, to endorse the initiative.
Grillo's appeals angered some party stalwarts and around 1,000 took part in a stormy Zoom call on Tuesday to denounce Draghi, party sources said.
"I don't recognise Grillo anymore. I used to love him. He made me feel passionate. I suggested (on the call) that we should call in an exorcist and liberate him," Maria Muscara, a councillor in the southern region of Campania, told Reuters.
5-Star sources say a sizeable number of its 92 senators do not want to support Draghi and might rebel even if Grillo's stance is eventually backed by the online ballot - putting the future of the group at risk.
One source said lawmakers were unhappy at the idea of joining another government that included the right-wing League, its coalition partner between 2018-19, which already pledged backing to Draghi.
They are also worried that their voice will be lost in a broad-based government.
"We will be superfluous. They will be able to govern without us," a 5-Star lower house deputy said, declining to be named.
There was no immediate comment from Draghi or his aides.
Politicians expect Draghi to see President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella before the end of Friday to confirm he has sufficient backing to form a government and to present a list of ministers.
(Writing by Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante, Editing by Gavin Jones, Alison Williams and David Gregorio)