Italy′s prime ministerial pick Giuseppe Conte faces scrutiny over CV claims | News | DW | 22.05.2018
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Italy's prime ministerial pick Giuseppe Conte faces scrutiny over CV claims

Giuseppe Conte, the Italian populist coalition's pick for prime minister, faces accusations that he embellished his CV. Conte's 12-page resume boasts affiliations with several international elite universities.

Giuseppe Conte, the little-known law professor tapped to become Italy's next prime minister, faced scrutiny from the Italian media on Tuesday amid allegations that he embellished his academic credentials on his CV.

Conte, a 53-year-old law professor at the University of Florence, was announced on Monday as the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League's pick as prime minister. The two parties are poised to form Italy's first-ever democratically elected populist government.

Conte's 12-page resume lists several prestigious institutions in Italy, the UK, the US, France and Austria, although it rarely specifies courses taken or areas of study. For example, Conte stated that he "perfected and updated his studies" at New York University (NYU) during the summers of 2008 to 2014.

Read more: Who is Italy's candidate for prime minister, Giuseppe Conte?

A spokesman for NYU, Michelle Tsai, said on Tuesday that the law professor had no official status at the university and that he had only obtained permission to use the university's law library.

Conte's CV also stated that he had "stayed" at Paris' Sorbonne University in 2000 and Cambridge University's Girton College in 2001 for scientific research. Cambridge declined to confirm Conte's affiliation citing its privacy policy, while the Sorbonne had not yet responded to media requests.

The resume also states that the prospective prime minister studied law at the International Kultur Institut in Vienna, Austria. Not only was the school's name misspelt in the resume, but it also appears to be a language school that does not offer any legal courses.

What is known is that Conte graduated with a law degree from Rome's Sapienza University in 1988.

Read more: Opinion: EU panic over Italian populism only exacerbates tension

5-Star defends PM pick

Italy's 5-Star Movement moved to defend its nomination of Conte and dismissed media scrutiny over academic credentials.

In a statement, the anti-establishment party said that law professor "had never boasted" of his degrees but had "stayed abroad to study, enrich his knowledge and perfect his juridical English."

The statement went on to accuse the media of dissecting the professor's resume because of fears for the upcoming changes presented by prospective coalition.

MS5 and the League vowed in their joint policy platform to slash taxes, ease austerity, boost welfare spending and increase deportations of undocumented migrants. However, the new coalition's spending plans come as Italy's debt-to-GDP ratio ranks among some of the highest in the world.

The two Eurosceptic parties have also promised to revise Italy's treaties with the European Union.

Read more: Italy's M5S unveils coalition program with far-right League

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A political unknown

With virtually no political experience, Conte's credibility rests on his academic achievements, which is partly why the Italian press has gone on to closely scrutinize his resume.

An expert in civil and commercial law, Conte has never been a member of parliament, nor held any sort of elected office. A lack of previous political experience cannot prevent him from being appointed prime minster. 

However, he did serve on a government administrative justice council. It was there that he first came to the public's attention, as he presided over a commission that ousted a public administration official who had demanded female students in his law course wear mini-skirts to class.

The final decision over whether to appoint Conte as Italy's new prime minister rests with President Sergio Mattarella, who consulted with parliamentary leaders on Tuesday and could announce his choice as soon as Wednesday.

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dm/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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