Italy’s new government was sworn in Friday at Rome’s Quirinal presidential palace after months of political turmoil – and even by the colorful standards of Italian politics, it is made up of an unorthodox mix of characters.
But Conte’s lack of political experience may not matter as he won’t even be the most powerful person in the government. His two deputies are the leaders of the two largest parties that emerged from the inconclusive March 4 ballot, and nothing will get done without their say-so.
One of them, the new interior minister, promised during the election campaign to expel half a million illegal immigrants from Italy, and has shared anti-migrant memes on social media. The other is the young university dropout leader of an anti-establishment party that has surged in the polls in recent years.
Matteo Salvini: The anti-immigrant leader in charge of the interior ministry
Matteo Salvini, the 45-year-old far-right League party leader who promised during the election campaign to expel half a million illegal immigrants from Italy, became one of the country’s new deputy prime ministers as well as the new interior minister.
Hours before his party announced it would be forming a governing coalition, Salvini shared a video on Facebook appearing to show a man of African origin plucking a pigeon, with the words “Go home!!!”
Salvini has often used fiery rhetoric to boost his party’s popularity and push a more nationalist agenda. In August 2016, Italian news agency ANSA reported him as calling for ethnic cleansing in Italy.
“We need mass ethnic cleansing in Italy, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, with strong manners if we need to,” ANSA reported.
During the election campaign, Salvini and the League seized on the anti-immigrant sentiment in the country and pushed a Trump-esque slogan of “Italians first.”
Luigi Di Maio: The college dropout leading labor and industry
Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio was named the other deputy prime minister. He’ll also head up the ministry of labor and economic development.
The 31-year-old is the son of a neo-fascist local politician from Avellino near Naples. He previously acted as the deputy speaker of the Italian lower house.
His spectacular political ascendancy comes despite the fact he dropped out of university before complete his law degree. Prior to entering politics, he was a webmaster.
Giovanni Tria: The second choice for economy minister
Last week, Giovanni Tria, a 69-year-old economics professor, said he was worried about some of the coalition government’s policies. This week, he became Italy’s economy minister.
Tria will take up the role after Italian President Sergio Mattarella vetoed the coalition’s first choice for the job, Paolo Savona, over his criticism of the euro.
Tria may be a more acceptable name to the Italian President, but the coalition is promising a spending and tax-cutting binge that has rattled investors and could contain the seeds of a new European crisis. Italy’s debt is at a record 132% of GDP, the second worst ratio in the region after Greece.
Tria has been lukewarm on the coalition’s plan to provide a universal basic income – a central campaign promise from M5S.
“We do not know yet what this ‘citizenship income’ will be, and therefore, the resources required and breadth of the public beneficiaries,” he wrote in Formiche magazine in late May.
But he did appear more amenable to the coalition’s proposal for a flat tax. “More interesting is the objective of the flat tax, which coincides with the objective of reducing the tax burden as a condition for a policy of growth,” Tria wrote before his name was put forward for the economy role.
“More worrying is the fact that it’s not at all clear what would be the direction of the coalition government that it’s forming on industrial policy issues,” he added.
“Their plans on fiscal policy would result in a huge increase in the deficit, a blatant violation of EU deficit rules,” said Federico Santi, an analyst at Eurasia Group, said of the coalition.
Paolo Savona: The European affairs minister who is euroskeptic
Savona, a euroskeptic 81-year-old economist, was supposed to be the economy minister before his appointment was blocked. Instead, he will take on Brussels as Italy’s new European affairs minister, which could be somewhat awkward after he bashed Germany’s economic policy in his most recent book published in May.
“Germany hasn’t changed its vision of its role in Europe after the end of Nazism, even if it has abandoned the idea of imposing it militarily,” he wrote.
In the book, he also wrote of the need to prepare the Italian government for a “plan B” which could see the country leave the bloc.
“The authorities have the duty to prepare and carry out two different plans, one necessary for remaining in the EU and in the euro, and another to leave if the accords don’t change and the negative effects increase.”
He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he specialized in economy in 1961 and has since held a long and distinguished career as an economics professor, according to his CV.
He was also briefly Italy’s industry minister between 1993 and 1994 before working with Berlusconi’s government in 2005.
Lorenzo Fontana: The radical anti-abortion advocate overseeing family affairs
Described in Italian media as “the most far-right minister in the new government,” 38-year-old Lorenzo Fontana is now the new family and disability minister.
He studied political science at the University of Padova and history at the European University of Rome. Fontana has been a member of the League party since he was 20, according to his website.
Between 2012 and 2014, he headed up its delegation in the European Parliament. He was also a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and Delegation for relations with Iraq.
But it has been Fontana’s radical positions on abortion, women’s rights, LGBT rights and immigrations on social media platforms that has garnered him the most attention at home.
Alfonso Bonafede: ‘Mr. Wolf’ in charge of justice
Alfonso Bonafede has taken on the role of justice minister. A Sicilian-born lawyer, he lives in Florence, where he met and collaborated with Conte.
Known in Italian media as one of Di Maio’s closest associates and friends, he has been nicknamed “Mr. Wolf” for his ability to resolve problems.
The lawyer started his political activity back in 2006 when he started attending M5S meetings in Florence. By 2009, he would stand – but ultimately lose – as a mayoral candidate against Matteo Renzi, who went on to become the country’s prime minister between 2014 and 2016, La Repubblica newspaper reported.
Sergio Costa: The environmental warrior
The new minister for the environment has been named as 59-year-old Sergio Costa.
He is perhaps best known as former environmental police chief of Naples, where he led the so-called “Land of the Fires” investigation – a probe into a mutlibillion-dollar scheme by the Camorra organized crime group who allegedly illegally disposed of toxic waste from all over the country in the region, Associated Press reported.
He was, according to local media, previously a Brigadier general of the Carabinieri army and commander of the Carabinieri forestry branch in Campania, local media has reported.
CNN’s Rory Smith, Hilary Clarke and Judith Vonberg contributed to this report.