Political novice gets nod to be Italy PM

Political novice Giuseppe Conte has got the nod to lead the next government in Italy.President Sergio Mattarella has given political novice Giuseppe Conte a mandate to lead the first government in Italy made up of anti-establishment parties that have vowed to shake up the European Union.
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Conte, a little-known Florence law professor, said he would need a few days to draw up a list of ministers for his administration, which will be backed by the radical 5-Star Movement and far-right League.

“I’m preparing now to defend the interests of all Italians in all places, in Europe and internationally,” Conte told reporters after holding two hours of talks with Mattarella.

“I will be the defence lawyer for the Italian people.”

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 was plucked from obscurity by 5-Star. He 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.

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

The European Commission warned on Wednesday that Italy’s financial stability was at risk from possible interest rate increases and political worries.

Powerful Italian business lobby Confindustria also raised the alarm, saying the nascent government had to show it had a plan to cut the country’s debt pile, the second highest in Europe in relation to output after that of Greece.

But Conte, in his first words since receiving his mandate, suggested his initial priority would be European reform.

“The government must immediately contend with ongoing negotiations over the European budget, the reform of asylum law, and the completion of the banking union,” he said.

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