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23 May, 2018 17:29

‘Government of change’: Euroskeptic coalition’s choice for Italian PM officially approved

‘Government of change’: Euroskeptic coalition’s choice for Italian PM officially approved

Giuseppe Conte has vowed quick reforms after being confirmed as prime minister by Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, following months of grueling talks that have put the Euroskeptic Five Star Movement-Lega coalition in charge.

“This will be the government of change,” said the former law professor and lawyer at the traditional maiden speech at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, where he was summoned on Wednesday afternoon after his compromise candidacy was announced last week.

Conte, 53, said he would immediately begin implementing stricter asylum requirements and negotiate a loosening Italy’s budget, away from Brussels’ spending requirements, describing himself as “defense lawyer for the Italian people.”

Conte nonetheless attempted to assuage the markets and Brussels, where a top EU official earlier called Italy’s direction “worrying,” saying that the new government is “aware of its European and international obligations.”

The cabinet, expected to be announced next week, will be comprise politicians from both Lega and the Five Star Movement, to which Conte belongs - the two parties that collectively reeled in more than half the votes in the March 4 election.

Their platforms include cutting taxes, increased public spending achieved by streamlining bureaucracy, and a clampdown on over 600,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in Italy in the past several years. They have also signaled a break with the EU, though the parties have stepped back from an earlier plan to stage a referendum on euro membership.

“We are happy, let’s hope nobody puts obstacles in the path of the government that the Italian people have been waiting for,” said Lega leader Matteo Salvini.

The candidacy of Conte earlier appeared to be under some threat, with the president expressing concern that the inexperienced politician was capable of being more than a figurehead, and newspapers unearthing claims that he may have embellished his academic credentials, a charge he denies.The deposed center-left Democratic Party, which suffered a crushing defeat two months ago, has already said it will offer stern opposition to what it has labeled a “far right” government.

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Silvio Berlusconi Forza Italia, which went to the polls in a bloc with Lega but quit the alliance this month to allow the two other parties to form a government, has also promised to be a “consistent” voice against the upstart political surge.