Giuseppe Conte survives controversy to become prime minister of Italy

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ROME – A law professor who has never held a political office was named prime minister of Italy on Wednesday after surviving accusations that he inflated his academic credentials.

Giuseppe Conte, who is not affiliated with any party, must now prove that he can lead the third largest economy in the euro zone.

Its mandate gives the 5-Star Euro-skeptic Movement and the anti-immigrant League a chance to lead the first populist government in Western Europe.

Conte, 53, emerged from the dark Monday when both parties announced that it was the compromise option to lead the coalition government.

"Outside there is a country that needs answers," Conte said after President Sergio Mattarella asked him to try to form a government. "I will be the defense lawyer of the Italian people."

You have a daunting task. Financial markets have largely sold Italian stocks and government bonds at the prospect of an inexperienced government.


The president, who formally appoints the prime minister, took his time before backing Conte, whose curriculum has been scrutinized this week.

Conte said he had "perfected his judicial studies" "in numerous foreign institutions, including the University of Cambridge, the University of New York and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Most universities said they could not find a trace from him in their databases, but Conte said he had attended informally to use his facilities and meet his colleagues, and they had not made false claims.

Crucially, both 5-Star and the League, which had pbaded weeks trying to find a mutually acceptable candidate, they stayed behind and pressured Mattarella to accept his recommendation …

He said he was committed to implementing a government program agreed by the 5-star and League leaders that demands an immigration campaign and measures to reduce the budget to help ordinary Italians. [1 9659016] Image: Guiseppe Conte "/>

Gius eppe Conte speaks at an electoral event in Rome on March 1. Alessandro Di Meo / EPA

A handsome dresser with a penchant for vests, cufflinks and a white handkerchief sticking out of his chest pocket, Conte teaches at the University of Florence and also practices as a lawyer in Rome.

Among the many colleges where Conte has taught is the Roman Catholic institute St. Pius V, and the Italian media reported that it had close ties to the Vatican.

Conte must now return to Mattarella with his Cabinet team.

If all goes well, Conte could swear his government at the beginning of next week, ready to face the votes of confidence necessary in both houses of parliament.

The inconclusive national elections of March 4 led to a hung parliament and more than two months of political stalemate.

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