A law professor, Giuseppe Conte, who has never before held political office was sworn in as Italy’s new Prime Minister on June 01. This has brought to power a populist new government, which campaigned on anti-immigrant and euroskeptic sentiments. He took an oath of loyalty to the Italian constitution in a gilded room in the Quirinal, Italy’s presidential palace in Rome, ending three months of political turmoil. It is anticipated that while the new Prime Minister would hold the most powerful office in Italy, the driving forces in his administration will be the leaders of the two political parties that gained most votes in an inconclusive election in March — the right-wing League party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
After initially vetoing the choice of finance minister, on Thursday evening Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella approved a reshuffled lineup. Conte and his cabinet ministers were sworn in on Friday, with the apparently unsuitable minister — who had expressed enthusiasm for extricating Italy from the euro — shifted to less high-profile role of Europe affairs minister. Conte and his new government will also face a confidence vote in parliament next week.
Conte pledged his new government would “work intensely to realize the political goals of our agreement” and “work with determination to improve the lives of all Italians.” Nevertheless, the country’s new populist, euroskeptic government is likely to be met with alarm by other European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are both eager to push for further EU political and economic integration. The League has also faced widespread criticism for xenophobic, anti-immigrant policies reminiscent of those forwarded by far-right parties across Europe, including Germany’s AfD and France’s National Front.
League leader Matteo Salvini, who promised during the election campaign to expel half a million illegal immigrants from Italy, has been sworn in as Italy’s new interior minister, while Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio is now labor and economic development minister, a key position to fulfill his campaign promise of a universal basic income.
The swearing in of the Prime Minister was preceded by lot of uncertainty. Thursday marked the second time in less than two weeks that Conte had been approved for the role of prime minister. After being appointed by Mattarella last Wednesday following his nomination by the League and Five Star, Conte was forced to abandon his attempt to form a government the next day after the president rejected his choice of finance minister.
Italy has not had a government since it went to the polls in March, the longest such period in the country’s postwar history. For weeks, Di Maio and Salvini were locked in talks with Mattarella and struggled to form a government. During the negotiations, the populists ditched some of their most incendiary campaign vows, such as calling for a referendum on whether Italy should abandon the euro or leave the European Union. Instead they promised a spending and tax-cutting binge that has rattled investors and could contain the seeds of a new European crisis.
Tensions have also risen between the two parties and the President, peaking as Di Maio called for Mattarella’s impeachment earlier this week following his rejection of Conte’s choice of finance minister. Born in the southern region of Puglia, Conte lives in Florence where he teaches civil law at the University of Florence. When he joined the Five Star Movement during the recent election, he said he supported center-left political ideals. He was mentioned as a potential Public Administration minister in the event that the Five Star Movement won a clear majority.