Last-ditch deal gets Conte sworn in as Italy PM

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (left) with President Sergio Mattarella during the swearing-in ceremony for the new government yesterday. Mr Conte will head a government made up of ministers from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and th
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (left) with President Sergio Mattarella during the swearing-in ceremony for the new government yesterday. Mr Conte will head a government made up of ministers from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right League Party.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

After months of political deadlock, coalition plans to reject austerity and raise spending

ROME • Mr Giuseppe Conte was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy's new populist government yesterday after a last-ditch coalition deal ended months of political deadlock and narrowly avoided snap elections in the euro zone's third largest economy.

Mr Conte will head a government made up of ministers from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right League Party, with the coalition raising concerns in some European quarters.

After weeks of political drama that had at one stage seemed certain to lead to new elections, President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday named Mr Conte, a 53-year-old law professor, as Prime Minister for the second time in less than a fortnight and approved the political novice's revised Cabinet.

Italian media reported that the lineup will face a vote of confidence on Monday or Tuesday in both Houses of Parliament, which it is almost certain to win thanks to Five Star and the League's combined parliamentary majority.

"We will work to realise the political objectives included in the government contract. We will work hard to improve the quality of life for all Italians," Mr Conte said after announcing his government team late on Thursday.

The coalition plans to revive Italy's sluggish economy by rejecting austerity and increasing spending, and also wants to renegotiate EU treaties and review the bloc's economic governance.

PLEDGE

We will work to realise the political objectives included in the government contract. We will work hard to improve the quality of life for all Italians.

MR GIUSEPPE CONTE, Italy's new Prime Minister, on his government's task.

Its ambitious economic proposals - which include a monthly basic income for Italy's poorest and a two tier "flat" tax - have worried Brussels and financial markets given Italy's massive €2.3 trillion (S$3.6 trillion) debt.

European Council president Donald Tusk congratulated Mr Conte, saying the European Union needed "unity and solidarity more than ever". European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, however, told Italians they needed to "do more work, less corruption" and stop blaming the EU for their woes.

The coalition deal turns the page on months of political turmoil following an inconclusive election in March which had raised jitters among Italy's European partners.

President Mattarella had triggered a fresh crisis at the weekend when he vetoed eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister in a previously proposed Five Star-League government.

The two enraged parties abandoned their joint bid for power, and on Monday, Mr Mattarella asked former IMF economist Carlo Cottarelli to form a caretaker government designed to take Italy to planned elections later this year.

But on Wednesday, Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, who had called for Mr Mattarella's impeachment following his rejection of Mr Savona, offered an olive branch by proposing the controversial 81-year-old financier for another government post.

That brought League leader Matteo Salvini back to the negotiating table, and after frantic talks in Rome on Thursday the two parties emerged with a new 18-minister Cabinet - featuring Mr Savona in charge of EU affairs - that was quickly accepted by Mr Mattarella.

Mr Conte who has been criticised as being a "Mr Nobody", named hardline anti-migrant Mr Salvini as Interior Minister, while Mr Di Maio will become Minister for Economic Development. Both will also be Deputy Prime Ministers.

The economy portfolio that was previously mooted for Mr Savona was given to the less controversial Giovanni Tria, a political economist who advocates slashing taxes but is in favour of keeping Italy in the euro zone. Brussels-savvy Enzo Moavero Milanesi was appointed Foreign Minister.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'Last-ditch deal gets Conte sworn in as Italy PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe