Obscure scholar nominated as Italy PM

Obscure scholar nominated as Italy PM

Italy’s populist League and Five Star Movement (M5S) have proposed a political unknown to become prime minister and lead their coalition government.

Giuseppe Conte, 53, a law academic with no political experience, emerged as the nominee after M5S leader Luigi Di Maio and the League’s Matteo Salvini visited President Sergio Mattarella separately at the Quirinal Palace in Rome.

Picking the M5S member as the leader of the eurozone’s third-largest economy is a compromise after Salvini and Di Maio ruled themselves out.

“We can announce that today we are facing a historical moment. We have indicated the name of Giuseppe Conte,” Di Maio blogged. “It is a person that can carry out the ‘government contract’. I am particularly proud of this choice.”

If Mattarella accepts Conte’s nomination, he will have several days to appoint his cabinet and seek approval from parliament.

Negotiations have been underway since Italians went to the polls in March, which saw the anti-establishment M5S win the most votes.

The parties’ agenda calls for sweeping fiscal reforms, a more confrontational stance with the European Union and a tougher approach to immigrants, including the creation of detention centres across the country.

Born in the tiny village of Volturara Appula in the southern region of Puglia, Conte has had an impressive legal and academic career.

Di Maio named Conte as part of his team of ministers ahead of the March 4 general election, putting him in charge of simplifying Italy’s bureaucracy. Conte has been invisible in the government talks that followed the election. 

Lorenzo Codogno of the London School of Economics was sceptical about Conte’s prospects: “He will have no experience in government and he will be effectively catapulted into the job without having named the cabinet or decided the programme. I am not saying he is a puppet, but the powers he will have are limited.”

Conte has had research positions at Cambridge University, the Sorbonne and New York University.

He runs a law practice in Rome and teaches private legal courses in Florence and at Luiss University in Rome.

The Fitch ratings agency warned that the prospect of the populist government risked Italy’s credit profile, and there was heavy trading in equity and bond markets amid questions about the coalition’s supposedly Eurosceptic policies.

Conte has been a director of the Italian space agency, a legal consultant to Rome’s chamber of commerce, and advises insurance companies in bankruptcy proceedings.




Italy’s parliament will probably be particularly unruly. Picture credit: Flickr

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.