The private meeting between the incoming Italian prime minister and the president of the republic lasted almost two hours. This has never happened before. Moreover, there’s never been an Italian prime minister who has only met the president for the first time upon being appointed to the office. But that’s what happened with Premier-elect Giuseppe Conte and President Sergio Mattarella, who convened for the first time at the Quirinale to bestow the official mandate.
In front of the microphones of the Quirinale press room, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte clearly moved, tried to keep a balance between the needs of the president and the 5 Star-Lega coalition. His first speech was clearly suggested, if not dictated, by the head of state. Conte declared himself “aware of the need to confirm Italy’s European and international position.” And also: “The government will have to deal immediately with the ongoing negotiations on the European budget, the reform of the right to asylum and the conclusion of the banking union.”
However, all the rest of the speech called to Lega and especially to 5 Star ideals. The emphasis on the “government of change.” The promise to be “the lawyer of the Italian people.” Above all, the commitment to present to the Chambers “a program based on the national interests.” That is the program that “fully represents the expectations of the Italian citizens for a true change.”
Therefore, Giuseppe Conte is and will remain the man of Matteo Salvini and Luigi di Maio. However, from now on he will also need to be the man of the institutions: the president’s man. Mattarella explained to him what this means in the long private interview. It means taking into account the “needs of the economy” — i.e. keeping the country safe from financial instability, thus not challenge Brussels’ rules. It means respecting budgetary constraints, as imposed by the Article 81 of the Constitution.
Nevertheless, Conte must reclaim and defend his autonomy, claim the premises that the law assigns to the prime minister. It is a difficult mission. In this regard, the first real test that awaits Conte is his choice of ministers. There are several questions on that front. The most delicate issue regards the Minister of Economy. The Lega insists on Paolo Savona, who on Wednesday resigned from the presidency of the Euklid fund, thus demonstrating that he is awaiting the official call. But Mattarella seems not to agree on that name.
Another fundamental and still empty box is the Minister of Defense, not to mention Foreign Affairs: Salvini put the veto on the favorite Giampaolo Massolo, a figure of great experience, at the head of the intelligence but does not represent the right novelty for the new “government of change.”
Moreover, there are still other disagreements. Particularly on the Minister of Infrastructure, a strategic and extremely delicate position because the 5 Star and Lega have divergent opinions. Then there is the delegation to the secret services, which Di Maio would prefer not to leave in the hands of the Lega secretary of the prime minister.
Having said that, the fundamental piece is now in place, and Mattarella was convinced that it was the only one that wouldn’t blow up the delicate balance between 5 Star and Lega. That’s why when on Wednesday Salvini and Di Maio confirmed their agreement on Conte, Mattarella did not hesitate, set aside any doubts and summoned the future prime minister.
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