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Wednesday 23 January 2019

Italian populists sworn into power as Eurosceptics cheer

Right-wing politicians around the continent have celebrated the move, with ministers promising to put ‘Italy first’.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, shakes hands with premier Giuseppe Conte (AP)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, shakes hands with premier Giuseppe Conte (AP)

By Nicole Winfield

Italy’s president has sworn in western Europe’s first populist government – a mix of anti-establishment and right-wing ministers who have promised an “Italy first” agenda which has has alarmed Europe’s political establishment.

The continent’s Eurosceptic politicians cheered the birth of the new Italian government coalition of the 5-Star Movement, headed by Luigi Di Maio, and the right-wing League party, led by Matteo Salvini, under new premier Giuseppe Conte.

Milan’s stock market rose after a last-minute deal on Thursday averted the threat of an early election that could have turned into a referendum on whether Italy should ditch the euro.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five-Star movement, and League party chief Matteo Salvini (AP)

President Sergio Mattarella, who negotiated three months of political deadlock to finally find a workable government, presided over the ceremony in the opulent Quirinale Palace in Rome.

Eighteen ministers – five of them women – took the oath of office, pledging to observe Italy’s constitution and work exclusively in the interests of the nation.

The ministers feature a mix of 5-Star and League loyalists, with the key economy ministry going to a mainstream economist close to the centre-right Forza Italia party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, Giovanni Tria.

New Italian Minister of Economy, Giovanni Tria (AP)

Mr Mattarella had vetoed the 5-Star-League’s first proposed candidate for economy minister because of his Eurosceptic views.

The new minister for public administration is defence attorney Giulia Bongiorno, a centre-right MP well-known for defending ex-premier Giulio Andreotti against mafia collusion charges and, more recently, acting for Raffaele Sollecito, the ex-boyfriend of American student Amanda Knox, in the Meredith Kercher murder case.

The ceremony capped a rollercoaster week of political and financial turmoil that saw stock markets around the world plunge and Italy’s borrowing rates soar on the threat of a new election in Europe’s third-largest economy.

It also came on the eve of the day that Italians celebrate Republic Day, the day in 1946 when Italy abolished the monarchy and gave birth to the First Republic.

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 post-war political order was largely drubbed in the March 4 national vote.

Press Association

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