The 55-year-old law professor, who remained in office in a caretaker role, was given a mandate by President Sergio Mattarella after being proposed for the post by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
Conte said that he would report back to the president “in a few days” to present a draft list of government ministers. Then, if all goes well, he will take part in a swearing-in ceremony, to be followed by parliamentary votes of confidence for the new executive.
It will be “a government of change,” he said in a statement to reporters.
“This is time for a new season, a great new season of reforms, of relaunch, of hope, to give the country some answers and also some certainties,” he added.
Until last week, Conte led an administration backed by a litigious majority comprising the far-right League and the M5S. The government collapsed after League leader Matteo Salvini pulled the plug.
According to the centre-left La Repubblica newspaper, Conte is “unprecedented in the history of Italy, the first head of a right-wing government who seamlessly becomes the head of a left-wing government.”
The premier admitted to having “more than a few doubts” about switching political sides. “I overcame these doubts in the belief that I have always tried to work in the interest of all citizens, nobody excluded,” he said.
Conte has no official party affiliation but is seen as close to M5S. His new government is expected to be less eurosceptic and more moderate on migration than the outgoing one, over which Salvini wielded significant influence.
The executive also faces significant financial challenges: Italy needs to draft a 2020 budget to keep its huge public debt in check and avoid a sharp rise in value-added tax that will kick in automatically in January if no alternative measures are approved.
As EU institutions are renewed following May’s European elections, “we need to make up for the time lost until now to allow Italy, a founding member of Europe, to play a leading role (in Europe), a role it deserves,” the Italian premier said.
In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said via a spokeswoman that he wished Conte well.
“Italy plays a central role in our European family, and we count on its active contribution to the European project,” said the spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, also urging Italy to nominate its representative in the next EU commission as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the market rejoiced at the looming resolution of the government crisis.
The Milan stock market was up Thursday by as much as 2 per cent, while yields on Italian 10-year bonds fell under 1 per cent, a historic low.
Salvini precipitated the government crisis, calculating that it would lead to snap elections, which he was strongly positioned to win given favourable opinion polls. But he did not anticipate the M5S and PD working together, overcoming old enmities, to thwart his plans.
The M5S and PD have until now been bitter rivals, but both parties had an interest in avoiding an election in which they stood to fare badly.
(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)
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