Yesterday Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, chose Carlo Cottarelli as the country’s interim prime minister. With fresh elections a possibility as soon as August, Cottarelli – a former IMF official – will likely fill the vacancy for a matter of months.
His surprise appointment reflects a country in turmoil. Until a few days ago Giuseppe Conte, the favoured candidate of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Lega, seemed destined for the job. That all changed when the president blocked Paolo Savona, the preferred candidate of those same two parties, from becoming the country’s finance minister. That was not because Savona lacked credibility – the Sardinian is an academic economist and former minister – but because of his widely known euroscepticism. A man who once referred to Italy’s membership of the eurozone as a ‘historic mistake’ was deemed too much of a risk when it came to investor confidence. In turn, Conte swiftly renounced the premiership.
Luigi Di Maio, leader of M5S, responded to those events saying: “In this country you can be a condemned criminal, a tax fraud convict, under investigation for corruption and be a minister […] but if you criticise Europe, you cannot be a finance minister”. Last night he called for peaceful demonstrations and for Italians to drape the tricolore from their balconies as a symbol of protest. Within hours his Facebook video responding to Cottarelli’s appointment had been shared over 140,000 times.