Europe looks on as Italy moves to name unknown lawyer as next PM

EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Giuseppe Conte, the leading candidate to become Italy's next prime minister, attends an election event in Rome, March 1, 2018.

Europe looks on as Italy moves to name unknown lawyer as next PM


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After nearly three months of negotiations over the make-up of the next Italian government, the country’s two victorious Eurosceptic parties – the far-right Lega (League) and populist Five Star Movement (M5S) -have agreed that their two leaders will not be named to lead the incoming anti-establishment administration but are instead poised to name 54-year-old lawyer Giuseppe Conte as the next prime minister.

Five-Star’s head, Luigi Di Maio, and the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, appear to have come to an agreement on Conte during their negotiations on a new government that continued over the just completed weekend.

Conte, a relative unknown to most, is a native of southern Italy’s Apulia region, who lists Rome’s La Sapienza, Yale, Duquesne, Vienna’s International Kulturinstitut, Paris’ Sorbonne, Cambridge, and New York University amongst his extensive list of alma maters. Conte is described as a political outsider with the background of a classic technocrat, according to Italian dailies La Stampa and Corriere della Serra.

Conte’s professional career includes overseeing crisis management operations in companies that include Italian steelworks company Ilva and the national flag carrier Alitalia.

Di Maio reportedly tapped Conte as Five-Star’s choice after came out in support of the left-wing populist party’s call to overhaulItaly’s complex regulatory environment by simplifying it through major cuts to the entrenched bureaucracy that holds back Italian economic growth. He will, however, be leading a government that has not been shy in its desire to clash with Brussels over the EU’s austerity measures and sanctions against Russia and the Dublin II framework agreement, which determines the EU Member State responsible for examining an application for asylum seekers seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention.

The move is a bit unexpected from Salvini and Di Maio, both of whom have publically shot down the idea of forming a technocratic government, saying they prefer on that would be more politically and ideologically-based. The two leaders are expected to take a hands-on position in the new cabinet with Salvini most likely to hold the post of interior minister where he will manage Italy’s ongoing immigration crisis. Di Maio is expected to become a minister for the economic development or labour ministry in order to have a hand in overseeing Italy’s macroeconomic framework, rather than negotiating the budget.

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