The Latest: Populists' premier gets presidential mandate

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The Latest on discussions to form a new government in Italy (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

Italy's president has asked political neophyte Giuseppe Conte to try to form a government, giving the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement and anti-immigrant League their first shot at running western Europe's first populist government.

President Sergio Mattarella met with Conte, a law professor with no political experience, for nearly two hours Wednesday amid skittish markets and concerns in Brussels that Europe's third-largest economy was embarking on a populist plunge.

With the mandate in hand, Conte must now huddle with the 5-Stars and League to finalize a list of Cabinet ministers to present to the president. Once the government is sworn in, its program will be put to confidence votes in both houses of the Italian parliament, where the two blocs have a slight majority.


4:45 p.m.

If Giuseppe Conte receives the president's mandate and wins confidence votes for a new government, analysts predict the ruling coalition won't last a full five-year term and that elections in 2019 remain a possibility.

Political observers in Italy say a bigger, more immediate issue for Conte is persuading President Sergio Mattarella he would have the independence to lead a coalition government composed of the 5-Stars and the League, and not just be an executor of the populists' wishes.

The 5-Stars have suffered from a perception that their public officials are mere puppets of the movement's brain trust, most visibly in Rome's city hall.

Six months after Virginia Raggi was elected mayor in 2016, 5-Star founder and comic Beppe Grillo stepped in to personally shake up her administration after it became mired in scandal, criminal investigations and resignations.


2:15 p.m.

Analysts expect Italian President Sergio Mattarella to give a law professor with no political experience the go-ahead to try to form a government, which would then be subject to confidence votes in both houses of parliament.

After more than two months of political deadlock and market concerns that Europe's third-largest economy is taking a populist plunge, Mattarella's office announced that Giuseppe Conte had been called in for consultants on Wednesday afternoon.

The anti-establishment 5-Stars and anti-immigrant League had proposed Conte as their compromise candidate for premier after inconclusive March 4 national elections led to a hung parliament.

Already, markets have been skittish in response to the 5-Star-League program, which includes a budget-busting basic income for needy Italians and a two-tier flat tax that is expected to add to Italy's debt load, already Europe's heaviest after Greece.


1:25 p.m.

Italy's president has summoned Giuseppe Conte for consultations to see if the lawyer tapped by the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement and League to be the country's next premier can form a government.

The office of President Sergio Mattarella announced Conte has been summoned for a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The two populist blocs had proposed Conte as their compromise candidate to lead the government after more than two months of political deadlock.

Questions had swirled about Conte's qualifications, given he has never held public office. Media reports have also speculated that he padded his resume and overstated his academic credentials.