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Italy: Five Star Movement, League seek approval for PM pick

Giuseppe Conte proposed as Italy PM as the country edges closer to a populist government.

Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini

Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement and League political parties are meeting the country's president in hopes of getting backing for their pick of prime minister.

President Sergio Mattarella is meeting the parties' respective leaders Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini on Monday afternoon, as the country edges closer towards a populist government two and a half months after inconclusive elections.

After concluding his meeting with Mattarella, Di Maio said he had proposed Giuseppe Conte, a 54-year-old university professor with little political experience, for the top job.

"We are proud of this choice, it will not vex Italians," Di Maio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.

Salvini later confirmed Conte as his party's pick.

"Conte is an expert in simplification, cutting of red tape and streamlining of the administrative machine, which is what many businesses ask of us," news agency AFP quoted the League leader as saying. 

If Mattarella approves of Di Maio and Salvini's choice for prime minister, a cabinet could be formed and a confidence vote could be held in parliament as early as this week.

The president is set to consult with the heads of Italy's upper and lower houses of parliament on Tuesday. 

Europe's fears

The populist Five Star Movement and anti-immigrant party League agreed on a joint platform for their coalition government last Friday.

The plan includes billions of euros in tax cuts, a rollback of pension reforms and a basic monthly income for the poor, sparking fears in Europe that the country might not be able to keep up with its financial commitments.

"If the new government takes the risk of not respecting its commitments on debt and the deficit, but also the clean-up of the banks, the financial stability of the eurozone will be threatened," Bruno Le Maire, French economy minister, told French digital channel CNews on Sunday.

"Everyone must understand in Italy that Italy's future is in Europe and nowhere else, and if this future is to be in Europe, there are rules that must be respected."

The policy plan also calls for a mandatory relocation scheme for immigrants among EU member states and the deportation of about 500,000 illegal immigrants.

While Salvini and Di Maio have ruled themselves out for the job of prime minister, they are expected to take top ministerial posts.

"We have agreed on the leader and ministers of government and we hope that no one will veto a choice that represents the will of the majority of Italians," Salvini said on Sunday.

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