European Interest

Giuseppe Conte is populists’ pick for Italy’s next prime minister

As reported by The Guardian, Conte’s nomination was met with puzzlement in Brussels.

Italy’s next prime minister could be Giuseppe Conte, a 54-year-old law professor who has never been elected to parliament. He was chosen by a coalition of Five Star Movement (M5S) and League parties.

The professor, originally from the southern region of Puglia, was previously aligned to the left before joining M5S

As reported by The Guardian, Conte’s nomination was met with puzzlement in Brussels. “Nobody knows who he is and he is not even a high-profile academic,” said one EU official, noting that even Italians had been joking that the man who could be their next prime minister was less well-known than his namesake, the Chelsea FC manager Antonio Conte.

Conte still requires the blessing of Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, who met with Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio late on May 21.

All the while, Italian financial markets have been in turmoil as the country awaits news about whether the unknown law professor without any political experience will be named as the next prime minister, reported The Guardian.

But Conte’s nomination is just one controversial aspect of the now-likely coalition government (M5S and League parties). The other is a possible collision course with other European Union member states after it announced spending plans likely to increase the country’s already towering public debt.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the two parties have agreed to give monthly payments of at least €780 to Italians living below the poverty line. The deal also foresees a maximum individual tax rate of 15%, while business would pay 20% at most. The platform includes the introduction of tougher rules on deporting migrants and calls for fostering dialogue with Russia on economic and foreign policy matters.

But though Italy is the third-largest economy in the EU, it is running public debt of more than 130% of GDP – second only to Greece. Economists and EU policymakers worry that the spending plans contained in the coalition’s programme will increase the country’s debt burden still further.

According to DW, the coalition is also at odds with the EU over its pro-Russian stance and over its euroskeptic attitude, reflected in League leader Matteo Salvini’s “Italians First” motto.

In a separate report, the BBC noted that European Central Bank council member Ewald Nowotny said on May 21 that the proposed policy changes were creating “nervousness”.

“I hope that the practice will be a much wiser approach than what is here today from the newspapers,” he said.

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