Italy to get M5S-Lega government

Mattarella appoints Giuseppe Conte as prime minister and approves new list of ministers.

President Sergio Mattarella has appointed law professor and political novice Giuseppe Conte to head up a coalition government comprising Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) and Lega and approved his list of ministers, ending a drawn-out institutional crisis resulting from inconclusive general elections on 4 March.

The appointment came after the two populist parties agreed a new name to serve as minister of the economy after Mattarella rejected their initial proposal of Eurosceptic and anti-euro economist Paolo Savona on grounds of financial turbulence amid concerns he would try to take Italy out of the single currency. 

The new cabinet line-up includes right-wing and anti-immigrant Lega leader Matteo Salvini in the role of deputy prime minister and minister of the interior; M5S leader Luigi Di Maio as deputy prime minister and minister for economic development and labour; Giovanni Tria, dean of the faculty of economics at Rome’s Tor Vergata university, as minister of the economy; Enzo Moavero Milanesi, a pro-European antitrust lawyer and minister in the Mario Monti and Enrico Letta governments, at the foreign ministry; criminal lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, who counts former prime minister Giulio Andreotti and Raffaele Sollecito, who was cleared of the 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher, among her former clients, at the ministry for public administration; and Savona now assigned to European affairs.

The other key ministers – Elisabetta Trenta, ex political advisor to the foreign ministry, at defence; M5S stalwart Alfonso Bonafede at justice; doctor Giulia Grillo at health; PE teacher Marco Bussetti at education; current M5S senate whip Danilo Toninelli at transport and infrastructure; manager Alberto Bonisoli, director of the private Nuova Accademia delle Belle Arti in Milan, at culture; and MEP Lorenzo Fontana at the newly created ministry for the family and disabled – are all largely unfamiliar names. 
The new government is to be sworn in on 1 June but and will present itself to parliament for the mandatory vote of confidence on Monday 4 June. 

Saturday 2 June, Republic Day, is a public holiday in Italy.  

The centre-right party Forza Italia led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, centre-left Partito Democratico and left-wing Liberi e Uguali have already all said they will give a vote of no confidence, while Lega’s election coalition partner, the small right-wing Fratelli d’Italia led by Giorgia Meloni, is to abstain. 

The development brings to a close a difficult and uncertain three months in Italian politics that have seen Mattarella hold endless government formation talks, issue exploratory mandates to the speakers of the senate and chamber of deputies and designate two prospective prime ministers in unsuccessful attempts to overcome the impasse.

Most recently the president appointed respected former International Monetary Fund official and ex government spending review commissioner Carlo Cottarelli to form a government of technocrats to steer the country towards fresh elections after the first bid by M5S and Lega to form a political government fell apart. 
However, this line garnered little support on either side of the political spectrum, paving the way for the two populist parties that emerged victorious from the ballot box in March but without winning a clear majority in parliament to try again. 

They confirmed their initial proposal of 54-year-old Conte, a lecturer in private law at Florence University and the private Luiss university in Rome, to head up an executive whose action will be bound by a programmatic document dubbed the ‘contract for the government of change’ that has been thrashed out between the sides, with Salvini and Di Maio expected to act as guarantors. 

Conte has no previous experience in politics, although media reports suggest he comes from a left-leaning and pro-European background. He came under fierce public scrutiny prior to his first nomination after foreign media raised doubts about parts of his CV, and he also drew criticism for acting as a lawyer for the family of the girl who became the symbol of the discredited Stamina stem-cell treatment in 2013. 

The M5S-Lega contract proposes a basic income, flat tax and pension reform, expelling half a million irregular immigrants and focusing on border protection and security at the expense of migrant reception and integration, scrapping the TAV high-speed rail line with France, lifting mandatory school vaccinations, and renegotiating EU budget regulations, among other things. 

Both parties and their respective bases reacted angrily to Mattarella’s decision to veto the nomination of Savona as economy minister on 27 May, with Di Maio initially proposing impeachment of the president. However constitutional lawyers jumped to the defence of the head of state, saying he acted fully within his constitutional powers in national interests and to protect Italy’s credibility on the international stage.

By Laura Clarke