Italy’s new populist government has been sworn in to power after the president, Sergio Mattarella, agreed to a revised slate of ministers – just days after a bitter row over the incoming leaders’ stance on the euro ended their initial bid to assume power.
Giuseppe Conte was sworn in as prime minister on Friday after a last-ditch coalition deal ended months of political deadlock and narrowly avoided snap elections in the eurozone’s third largest economy.
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. The first populist coalition in a founding EU member has raised concerns in some European quarters.
The 53-year-old was sworn in alongside his cabinet, which will see the M5S leader, Luigi Di Maio, and League chief, Matteo Salvini, in key ministerial posts.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, congratulated Conte on Friday, saying the bloc would be attentive to his reform plans.
Juncker: Italians need to work harder and be less corrupt
The deal will bring at least temporary calm to a political crisis that has embroiled Italy for weeks. The tumult raised questions – in Brussels and among investors around the world – about whether the rise in Italian populism and the collapse of traditional parties posed a fundamental threat to the country’s future in the eurozone.
The formation of the new government will at least temporarily allay those concerns, because it will remove for now the threat that snap elections will be called later this summer, a prospect that worried investors because it could have bolstered support for anti-EU parties.
The populist leaders stepped back from their insistence that Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old Eurosceptic, should serve as finance minister. The choice had been vetoed by Mattarella, prompting the M5S and the League to call off their deal. Savona will now serve as EU minister instead.
But there are still many unknowns about how the new administration – an uneasy alliance between two former political opponents, both jockeying for power – will govern Italy.
Salvini, the bombastic and xenophobic leader of the League , who rose in recent years on the back of incendiary and racist statements about migrants and Roma, will take on the role of interior minister. Salvini has campaigned on the promise of mass deportations of migrants and said a new government would build detention centres around Italy. He is also a fierce critic of Brussels and has called for closer ties to Russia.
Di Maio will take on a powerful new post that will combine labour and industry portfolios in a move that could mark big changes to labour and environmental policies, given the M5S’s stated opposition to big industry.
Giovanni Tria, a little known economics professor, was named to lead the finance ministry. While Tria has been critical of the EU, he is not been seen as an advocate for an exit from the eurozone.
The new deal was blessed by Mattarella, who earlier this week nominated a technocrat, Carlo Cottarelli, to serve as prime minister. Those plans were put on hold after Mattarella opted to give the populists more time to reach a new agreement.
Sergio Mattarella: the Italian president at the heart of a political crisis
The new government is expected to take a far more antagonistic stance against Brussels than the previous government, headed by the centre-left Democratic party. But the alliance between the M5S and the League will have only a relatively narrow majority in the Italian senate, easing concerns among investors and officials in Brussels over the its decision-making.
While both parties are populist in nature, and have railed against Brussels and Italian “elites”, they have long been natural opponents in politics.
Source – The Guardian