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Italy swears in populist prime minister

02 Juin 2018

Italy's new government is set to be sworn in Friday at Rome's Quirinal presidential palace after months of political turmoil - and even by the colorful standards of Italian politics, it is made up of an unorthodox mix of characters.

Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, left, and League party leader Matteo Salvini attend the swearing-in ceremony for Italy's new government.

The president's office announced Thursday that Conte had accepted the role and would be sworn in Friday afternoon with Cabinet ministers.

The bid failed after Mattarella on Sunday last week vetoed the proposed economy minister, Paolo Savona. The president had invoked his constitutional powers to reject the populists' initial choice for economy minister because he is an advocate of a backup plan to exit from euro-currency membership.

The far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement have again presented Conte as their choice for prime minister.

Conte is a little-known law professor who gave up a mandate to form a government over the weekend. In the past, both parties have called for a referendum to determine if Italy should stay in the Eurozone.

Conte, 53, who has been criticised as being a "Mr Nobody", named hardline anti-migrant Salvini as interior minister, while Di Maio is minister for economic development.

The news of the new government appeared to ease investors' nerves, spooked earlier in the week amid concerns that the prospect of a new election could have become a referendum on European Union membership and the eurozone's single currency.

Maurizio Martina, the caretaker leader of the centre-Left party, said: "The populist, Rightist government that is about to be born has a programme that is unsafe for our country".

Tasting power, the ambitious Di Maio looked right and left for a coalition partner, finally striking not one but two separate deals with the nationalist League party that take Five Star to the big time.

The improbably fast rise of the grassroots 5-Star Movement and its alliance with the right-wing, anti-immigrant League has been dubbed the birth of Italy's Third Republic, after Italy's political order was largely drubbed in the March 4 national vote.

"He is very popular among the party faithful and his strength lies precisely in being completely different from Beppe Grillo, both in his communication style and in his appearance", said Alberto Castelvecchi, a professor at Rome's Luiss University.

Italy had been without a government since it held elections in March, the longest stretch without a government in the country's postwar history.

In the book, he also wrote of the need to prepare the Italian government for a "plan B" which could see the country leave the bloc. The scholar already served as advisor to Italy's Prime Minister for EU affairs and privatization of state-owned companies between 1993 and 1995, and as Minister of European Affairs between 2011-2013 and 2013-2014, according to his online resume.

The European Commission on Wednesday (23 May) approved Italy's efforts to balance its public accounts but asked the new government for a "credible response" in order to further reduce its huge public debt.

The Frankfurt-based Sentix research group said its monthly "euro break-up" index, based on a survey of around 1,000 institutional and retail investors, more than doubled to 13 percent from 6.3 percent in April.

Public resentment over what was perceived as fellow European Union nations' failure to help ease the financial and logistical burden on Italy in caring for the flood of migrants helped boost the League's popularity.

Italy swears in populist prime minister