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Italy's President Summons Conte for Talks on Forming Government


FILE - Giuseppe Conte smiles during a meeting in Rome as Italy edged toward its first populist government, March 1, 2018.

Italy's president summoned Giuseppe Conte for consultations Wednesday to see if the law professor tapped by the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement and League as their candidate for premier has what it takes to try to form a government.

After more than two months of political deadlock and amid market concerns that Europe's third-largest economy is taking a populist plunge, the office of President Sergio Mattarella announced Conte had been summoned for a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The two populist blocs had proposed Conte as their compromise candidate for premier after inconclusive March 4 national elections led to a hung parliament, with the anti-establishment 5-Stars and anti-immigrant League emerging as the biggest winners.

Questions had swirled about Conte's qualifications, given he has never held public office and new information suggests he padded his resume with academic credentials at international universities where he never taught or enrolled.

For example, his 12-page resume says he "perfected and updated his studies" at New York University during the summers of 2008-2014. NYU said he had "no official status" at the school but was given permission to use the NYU Law Library for research in those years.

Political observers in Italy say a bigger issue for Conte is persuading Mattarella he would have the independence to lead a coalition government composed of the 5-Stars and the League, and not just be an executor of the populists' wishes.

The 5-Stars have suffered from the perception that their public officials are mere puppets of the movement's brain trust, most visibly in Rome's city hall. Six months after Virginia Raggi was elected mayor in 2016, 5-Star founder and comic Beppe Grillo stepped in to personally shake up her administration after it became mired in scandal, criminal investigations and resignations.

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