Lawyer Giuseppe Conte tipped to be Italy's new populist PM

Rome (AFP) –


A largely unknown lawyer and law professor, far removed from the cut-throat world of Italian politics, Giuseppe Conte is the favourite to lead the country's nascent populist government.

Luigi Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and far-right league leader Matteo Salvini are to present their choice for prime minister in separate meetings with President Sergio Mattarella beginning at 1530 GMT.

Mattarella has to agree on a prime minister with the parties before they can seek approval for their new government in parliament.

The pair have remained tight-lipped over their pick, but ahead of Monday's crucial meeting, the Italian media have gambled on 54-year-old Conte.

Born in 1964 in the tiny village of Volturara Appula in the southern region of Puglia, Conte has had an impressive career in law and academia.

Di Maio had presented Conte as part of his team of ministers ahead of the March 4 general election, putting him charge of simplifying the country's infamous bureaucracy.

That was the general public's first and so far only encounter with Conte, who was subsequently invisible in the government talks that followed the inconclusive election, which later saw Five Star and the League striking a coalition government deal.

Conte's CV includes study and research positions at some of the world's most prestigious universities, including Cambridge University, the Sorbonne and New York University.

He runs a law studio in Rome, and currently teaches private law courses in Florence and at Luiss University in the capital.

He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Space Agency, a legal consultant to the Rome Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the supervisory board of a number of insurance companies in bankruptcy proceedings.