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Exit Conte, welcome Cottarelli!

Exit Conte, welcome Cottarelli!
Guiseppe Conte exits and Carlo Cottarelli enters as Italy's Prime Minister! Indeed, in what has been seen as a very unusual development, the man who was picked by coalition partners as the Prime Minister-designate was shown the door by Italy's President, Sergio Mattarella. The President would rather have a technocratic or non-political prime minister. And this, after Conte had presented the list of those who were to be prospective members of his Cabinet. President Mattarella and the "prime minister-designate" met to discuss the forming of a government. Conte, a law professor and political novice, was tapped by the country's populist parties last week to lead a new coalition government. Incidentally, the elections were held well over three months back and none of the parties had emerged as the outright runner. That provided the likes of the erstwhile defamed leader Sylvio Berlusconi to try his hand as a game maker. That also left enough scope for strange bedfellows to strike a deal. Eventually, they first closed in on someone like Conte who seemed so eager that the curriculum vitae presented by him raised suspicions. But, the seasoned President found out everything. Mattarella first objected to Conte's choice for the Economic Ministry. Conte's candidate, Paolo Savona, was unacceptable because the appointment would have alarmed investors and have dangerous consequences for Italy's outstanding government debt. So, Mattarella met Carlo Cottarelli, former director of fiscal affairs at the International Monetary Fund and nominated him as the country's Prime Minister. Mattarella said the country would be heading for new elections in 2019. "Nobody can say that I have put obstacles to the so-called government of the change," he said, but, "I need to take care of the savings of the Italian people." Novice Conte had emerged as the frontrunner as Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, the League leader, met separately with Mattarella at Quirinal Palace. Negotiations had been underway since the country went to the polls in March. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) won the most votes, followed by the right-wing North League. Di Maio and Salvini, the 45-year-old head of the League, had been locked in coalition talks after alliances with mainstream parties did not materialise. Populists have ditched some of their most incendiary campaign vows such as calling for a referendum on whether Italy should abandon the Euro or leave the European Union. Now, they are promising a spending and tax-cutting binge that has rattled investors and could contain the seeds of a new European crisis. A populist government in Rome could make it more difficult for European Union leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to push for further EU political and economic integration.

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