Italian President Gives Populist Political Novice Mandate to Become PM

Giuseppe Conte, a law professor, will draw up a list of ministers before he is sworn in

Newly appointed Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrives to speaks with media at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, Italy, May 23, 2018.
\ ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/ REUTERS

President Sergio Mattarella has given political novice Giuseppe Conte a mandate to become prime minister of a coalition put together by the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, an official said on Wednesday. 

>> Italy’s New Populist Rulers Love Putin, Hate Immigrants and Are Confused About Israel

Conte, a Florence law professor, will now draw up a list of ministers, which must be approved by the head of state before his government can be sworn in.
 
Italy has been deadlocked since an inconclusive election in March. After weeks of fruitless talks between the various parties, 5-Star and the League finally agreed to a government pact last Friday, promising to hike taxes and jack up spending. 

Conte is backed by 5-Star, but holds no elected position and has no political or management experience. Critics say he risks being an exceptionally weak leader who will have little influence over his coalition partners. 

The meeting with little-known law professor Giuseppe Conte was set for 5.30 P.M. Wednesday, and there was no guarantee the head of state would immediately hand him a mandate to become Italy’s next prime minister.

However, the anti-immigrant League indicated that they expected a swift green light from the president after more than 11 weeks of political deadlock following the elections.

Volatile Italian markets saw renewed selling pressure on Wednesday over fears the League/5-Star program would led to a spending spree that would endanger the country’s heavily indebted accounts and spark a showdown with the European Union.

Italy’s 10-year bond yield, a gauge of political risk, hit a 14-month high, while the cost of insuring exposure to Italian debt rose to a year-high.

5-Star and the League told Mattarella on Monday they wanted Conte to become premier. Instead of immediately accepting their recommendation, the president has taken his time amid concerns over Conte’s lack of experience and suggestions he inflated his academic resume in an effort to boost his international profile.