Italian populists reach last-ditch deal to take power - International

Devin Lawrence
June 3, 2018

Conte, an academic and political novice, will head a government of ministers from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League party.

Following the searing-in ceremony, the new government headed to the prime minister's office for the hand-over ceremony.

Conte and his new government will also face a confidence vote in parliament next week.

Financial markets have calmed amid increasing signs that Italy may avoid imminent elections after the president gave two populist parties time to figure out whether they can agree on an alternative to an anti-euro economy minister.

In an abrupt U-turn, he has now abandoned this idea and assented to Giuseppe Conte leading Italy and forming a coalition government consisting of anti-establishment parties Five Star (M5S) and the League.

Matteo Salvini, the energetic leader of the far-right Lega Nord Party, said he wanted new elections in Italy "as soon as possible".

The president's choice as prime minister, unelected former International Monetary Fund official Carlo Cottarelli, continued to hold talks about forming a caretaker government despite both populist parties saying they would refuse to back him.

Giuseppe Conte is set to be Italy's new prime minister.

While both parties are populist in nature, and have railed against Brussels and Italian "elites", they have always been natural opponents in politics.

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The bid failed after Mattarella on Sunday last week vetoed the proposed economy minister, Paolo Savona.

Announcing the ministers in his government, Conte said: "We will work with determination to improve the quality of life of all Italians".

The parties have vowed to use their parliamentary majority to sabotage any government with Cottarelli at the helm, raising the specter of another national vote as early as July. He has promised to ramp up deportations of irregular immigrants.

The 5-Star-League agenda has no such plans, but Conte made clear he was irked by comments this week by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said Italy had to stop blaming the EU for its problems and take responsibility itself to address the poverty in southern Italy.

The agreement between Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio averts the prospect of a new snap election which has rattled global markets in recent weeks.

Luigi Di Maio, the leader of M5S, will head the super-ministry of Economic Development and Labor.

This, along with claims by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker that Italy needs "more work; less corruption; [and] seriousness" rather than less EU nearly guarantee that Rome and Brussels will come into conflict sooner rather than later. Both will also be deputy prime ministers.

Italy's 2.3 trillion euros of debt is 132 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the highest ratio in Europe apart from Greece and more than double the bloc's 60-percent ceiling. "And the most extreme case of that, of course, is the United Kingdom and the decision to leave the European Union altogether", Walker said.

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