News Analysis: Conte set to become face of new Italian gov't
ROME, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Giuseppe Conte, a former low-key law professor, is about to become the face of Italy's new government, experts believed.
He was plucked from obscurity to become a candidate to oversee an uncomfortable coalition between two political parties with little in common.
Now almost 16 months later, he is set to lead a government that the European Commission and financial markets are hoping will create a period of political stability that has been rare in Italy in recent years.
"Conte went from being unknown, to being a mediator, to being a true leader, all in the span of less than a year and a half," Flavio Chiapponi, a political scientist with the University of Pavia, told Xinhua. "It has been a very rapid evolution."
This will be Conte's second stint as prime minister. The first was for the government that took power last year, a difficult alliance between the populist Five-Star Movement and the nationalist, rightwing League. For most of his mandate of nearly 15 months, Conte's role was to mediate disputes between those parties, with mixed results.
Matteo Salvini, head of the League, was the face of that government, earning headlines for his harsh stance against migrants arriving in Italy and repeatedly clashing with the European Commission. With his power and popularity growing, Salvini made an unsuccessful power grab that triggered a government collapse.
To avoid new elections that would have favored Salvini's League, the Five-Star Movement joined forces with the center-left Democratic Party, a former rival. Conte was the only potential prime minister that both parties and Italian President Sergio Mattarella could agree on.
"Conte is a force of continuity for the new government," Fabio De Nardis, a professor of political sociology at the University of Salento, said in an interview. "Mattarella gave him the call and Conte lifted his head up and went to work."
Conte has not yet started his second term as prime minister: that will become official next week after he and the slate of government ministers he presented to Mattarella for approval on Wednesday, win back-to-back confidence votes in the two houses of parliament. But few expect problems with those votes.
Once that takes place, Conte will be the first Italian leader to serve more than one term as prime minister since the fourth term of Silvio Berlusconi, which ended in 2011.
Chiapponi said Conte has grown into the role as prime minister.
"I think he has shown his abilities to be a formidable political leader," Chiapponi said. "I don't know he will be a long-time leader in Italy, or that he will become more than a compromise candidate between parties in a coalition. But that is what Italy needs now."