Milan, Italy | May 31
Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League succeeded Thursday in forming western Europe’s first populist government, which will be headed by a political novice whose first try was rejected four days earlier as too risky for the Italian economy.
What changed was the willingness of 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and League leader Matteo Salvini to shuffle the proposed roster of government ministers amid a financial market scare. They moved an 81-year-old euroskeptic economist vetoed by Italy’s president from overseeing the economy ministry to a European affairs Cabinet post.
After the fits, starts and financial turbulence of recent days, the realization of a 5-Star-League coalition government put its populist posture on full display in Salvini’s first public remarks. He returned from Rome to address a crowd of supporters in his northern home region of Lombardy.
“I want to make Italy a protagonist in Europe again. With good manners and without creating confusion. But I am fed up of governments with the hat in their hand,” Salvini said to cheers. “We are second to no one.”
Just a short time earlier, President Sergio Mattarella’s office announced that the new premier, University of Florence law professor Giuseppe Conte, and his ministers would be sworn in Friday afternoon.
It was a stunning comeback from Sunday evening, when Conte — the premier-designate at the time — left a meeting with Mattarella empty-handed and returned to his teaching job.
Emerging from a similar meeting with a different ending Thursday night, Conte read off his Cabinet list and pledged that “we will work with determination to improve the quality of life of all Italians.”
The Cabinet includes Di Maio— architect of the government’s proposed basic income for struggling Italians — as welfare minister and Salvini — who has pledged to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants — as interior minister.