Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte: The Stabilizer of an Unbalanced Government

  1. Early Life and Education

Giuseppe Conte was born on August 8, 1964 in the small Italian village of Volturara Appula. His father worked in their local municipality, while his mother made a living as a school teacher.

  1. Academic Pursuits

Before he emerged as a prominent politician during the 2018 political deadlock in Italy, Conte kept a relatively low profile working as a law academic. In 1988, he graduated from Sapienza University of Rome with a law degree. During the 1990s, he would pursue further studies at other major law colleges abroad such as Yale Law School in the US and Internationales Kulturinstitut in Austria. He later became a lecturer and a researcher mainly at Sorbonne University in France, but he also had stints at Cambridge and New York University.

  1. Career in Law

Throughout his law tenure, Conte wrote 650 papers on the protection of basic rights and freedoms. He is currently a professor of private law at the University of Florence and LUISS of Rome and also runs a law firm in the Italian capital.

  1. Different Dreams During Youth

Conte didn’t always want a career in law and politics, as a matter of fact during his younger years he wanted an entirely different career path as he dreamed of becoming a football player. Unfortunately, an articular cartilage operation forced him to abandon this dream. Conte is still an avid football fan and is a supporter of the Serie A club A.S. Roma.

  1. Opportunity Knocks During the 2018 Political Deadlock

Despite not being an MP or a member of a political party, his ties with the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the 2018 political deadlock following the general election gave him a serendipitous opportunity of a lifetime. Before the election, Luigi Di Maio, the leader of M5S, named Conte as a potential Minister of Public Administration if the party was to win the vote. However, a hung parliament meant that M5S had to form a coalition government with the Center-Right Coalition which is headed by Lega Nord and its leader Matteo Salvini. Di Maio and Salvini both chose Conte as a neutral candidate to head the coalition government, even though he has ties with the M5S. Moreover, both Di Maio and Salvini would serve as Deputy Prime Ministers. As such Conte was tasked with coordinating between both ruling parties.

  1. A Puppet on Strings

During his first year in office, Conte made several international trips, visiting various international leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His first major summit was the 2018 G7 meeting, where he met US President Donald Trump. While he proved his political legitimacy on the international stage, many Italians back home considered him a political puppet controlled by Di Maio and Salvini.

  1. 2019 Political Crisis: Conte Clashes with Salvini

Spending little over a year in office, Conte faced his first major political crisis in August-September 2019. The crisis emerged after the M5S and Lega Nord had disagreements over the construction of the Turin–Lyon high-speed railway. As a result, the Lega Nord’s Matteo Salvini tabled a motion of no confidence against Conte and requested the President of the Republic to call a snap election. Many saw this as a move by Salvini to gain more power in parliament, but Conte wouldn’t give in to his whims and instead opted to resign as Prime Minister just so that he could form a new cabinet composed of the M5S members and members of left-leaning parties, thus removing all Lega Nord elements from government. This new cabinet was sworn in on September 5, and Salvini was removed from his posts as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. Conte’s victory was two-fold, first he successfully kept his post as Prime Minister, and second, he triumphantly showcased his leadership and valiance against a political opponent who sought to force him out of power. One thing is for certain now, no one can call Conte a puppet to Salvini.