Political unknown proposed as Italy's new prime minister

5-Star Movement leader Di Maio shakes hands with Giuseppe Conte
5-Star Movement leader Di Maio shakes hands with Giuseppe Conte Copyright REUTERS
Copyright REUTERS
By Alice Tidey
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Italy’s populist Five Star Movement and the far-right League have proposed Giuseppe Conte as the country’s new prime minister.


The leaders of Italy's far-right League and 5-Star Movement have proposed political unknown Giuseppe Conte as the country’s new prime minister.

5-Star leader Luigi di Maio said in a statement on Tuesday that he is "particularly proud" of the choice, but concerns have been raised about Conte’s credibility given that he could soon be at the helm of the eurozone’s third-largest economy despite having little political experience.

Who is Conte?

Born in 1964 in village of Voltrara Appula, in the southern region of Puglia, Conte is a law professor at the University of Florence and at Luiss in Rome.

According to his LUISS biography, Conte studied law at La Sapienza University in Rome before holding research positions at several foreign institutions including Yale University in the US, Cambridge in the UK and the Sorbonne in France.

However, some have cast doubts over his academic credentials.

"There are lots of question marks about some of the things mentioned in his CV but he wouldn’t be the first one in Italy to do that and he’s not going to be the last one either," Wolfgang Piccoli, from political risk analysis firm Teneo Intelligence, told Euronews.

"He’s one of those academics in Italy who made his way through the system by leveraging his network rather than working hard to improve his CV and scientific publications," he said.

Conte is separated from his wife and has a 10-year-old son.

What's his political experience?

Conte’s experience in politics is very limited and he’s never held an elected office before.

For Di Maio, the point is moot.

"For those who say he was not elected, I reply that Giuseppe Conte was on my team and that 11 million Italians voted for him," he wrote in his statement.

Conte previously told Italian media that he used to vote for left-wing parties before having a change of heart.

"Today, I think the ideologies of the 20th century are no longer adequate," he said.

He was reportedly approached by Di Maio and drafted a part of the justice programme included in the 5-Star movement’s manifesto.

"He’s been talking about cutting red tape, streamlining public administration and reforming the judiciary," Piccolo explained, adding a tad ironically, "by the way, good luck with the last one."

Why was he nominated?

For Piccoli, Conte’s possible appointment highlights how difficult it was for The League and 5-Star to reach an agreement.

The country’s been deadlocked since the March 4 election that saw populist parties emerge as the big winners.

The 5-Star Movement became the largest parliamentary group but could not form a majority government while the League, traditionally strictly confined to the north of Italy, came in third.


The two parties do share some policy stances — they’re both hostile towards the EU’s fiscal rules and the euro and are to some varying degrees pro-Kremlin — but they also differ in many ways.

Left-wing 5Star has been slowly veering towards the centre, while the League is close to some of the EU’s far-right movements including the National Front in France and Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party.

"Conte is a compromise figure and they (5Star and The League) decided to opt for someone who’s not going to be able to cast a cloud on them," he said.

"At the same time, he’s some sort of respectable figure but does it really matter? I don’t think it does. Given the priorities for this coalition government, the key appointments will be the ministries of economy, justice, interior and labour."

"The president is taking his time. He’s concerned about who will be suggested for minister of economy so I think there will be a bit of bargaining about that," he concluded.

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