Italy’s New Prime Minister has no Political Experience

Law professor Giuseppe Conte has been named as Italy’s new prime minister after surviving accusations that he inflated his academic credentials.

He must now prove he can lead the Eurozone's third largest economy with no political experience.

Mr Conte, who is unaffiliated to any party, emerged from obscurity on Monday when the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the far-right League announced he was the compromise choice to lead their coalition government.

"Outside here there is a country that needs answers," he said after receiving the mandate to form a government from President Sergio Mattarella. "I will be the defence lawyer of the Italian people."

He has a daunting task. Financial markets have heavily sold-off Italian stocks and government bonds at the prospect of an inexperienced, eurosceptic government.

League chief Matteo Salvini had to address widespread criticism that Mr Conte will be a puppet of the two parties' leaders. "He won't merely carry out our orders, he will have to be independent," Salvini told reporters.

The president, who formally appoints the prime minister, took his time before endorsing Mr Conte, whose curriculum vitae has come under scrutiny this week by the world's media.

The 53-year-old said he had "perfected his judicial studies" at numerous foreign institutions, including Cambridge University, New York University and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Most of the universities said they could find no trace of him on their databases, but Mr Conte said he had attended in an informal capacity to use their facilities and meet colleagues, and had made no false claims.

Crucially, both 5-Star and the League, which had spent weeks trying to find a mutually acceptable candidate, stuck by him and piled pressure on President Mattarella to accept their recommendation.

"He is an Italian with no powerful sponsors ... who has decided to put himself on the line to change this country," 5-Star wrote on its website.

Penchant for Waistcoats

Despite his lack of party ties, 5-Star proposed Mr Conte among others as possible ministers before inconclusive elections on 4 March when he promised to simplify Italy's labyrinthine bureaucracy.

"First we have to drastically abolish useless laws," he said, adding that there were "many more" than the 400 pieces of superfluous legislation previously cited by 5-Star leader LuigiDi Maio.

That was the first time Mr Conte had appeared in the public spotlight, though he is on the board of numerous academic and judicial bodies and had participated in conferences on justice matters organised by 5-Star.

A smart dresser with a penchant for waistcoats, cufflinks and a white handkerchief poking out of his breast pocket, Mr Conte teaches at Florence University and also practises as a lawyer in Rome.

It was in Florence that he established relations with 5-Star through Alfonso Bonafede, a local lawyer and senior lawmaker who is the party's preferred choice as justice minister.

Among the many colleges where Mr Conte has taught is the Roman Catholic San Pio V institute, and Italian media reported that he had close ties with the Vatican.

He must now return to President Mattarella with his cabinet team, which many observers say has already been largely decided by DiMaio and Salvini.

The powerful job of economy minister will be the trickiest appointment. The League is pushing for the eurosceptic economist Paolo Savona but President Mattarella, who has the final say, has already let it be known he is not happy with the choice.

If all goes smoothly, Mr Conte could have his government sworn in early next week, ready to face the necessary confidence votes in both houses of parliament.

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