The frontrunner to be Italy's next prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has been caught taking liberties with his resume.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on May 23, 2018

Giuseppe Conte is the civil law professor set to rise from relative anonymity to the top seat in Italian government.

With the leaders of Italy’s two main populist parties agreeing to take themselves out of the running for prime minister for the sake of their soon-to-rule coalition, Conte found himself as the popular third choice to succeed current premier Paolo Gentiloni.

Luigi Di Maio of Five-Star Movement (M5S) and Matteo Salvini of The League gave their endorsement of Conte to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday, with the latter saying their man is “an expert in simplification, cutting of red tape and streamlining of the administrative machine”.

Conte was then scheduled to receive his formal mandate from Mattarella on Tuesday, but the President is now taking more time to consider the nomination.

The Conte controversy

The University of Florence professor’s ascension to PM has been thrown into doubt with the New York Times revealing he dressed up certain entries in his curriculum vitae.

In the 12-page resume Conte submitted to the Italian parliament in 2013, he said he “perfected and updated his studies” at New York University in the summers between 2008-2014.

The Times reported NYU had no record of enrolment for Conte, and the University has since clarified its association with the now 53-year-old.

“While Mr. Conte had no official status at NYU, he was granted permission to conduct research in the NYU law library… and he invited an NYU law professor to serve on the board of an Italian law journal,” said NYU spokeswoman Michelle Tsai.

As M5S points out, Conte never outright lied about his dealings with the University, and the party has lambasted the media for implying he’s conned his way to the top.

“Giuseppe Conte wrote with clarity that he perfected and updated his studies at New York University. But he did not cite courses or say he completed a master’s at the university,” it said in a statement.

“Conte, like any scholar, has studied abroad, enriched his knowledge and perfected his legal English. For a professor of his level, the opposite would have been strange.

“He did it and rightly wrote it in the [CV], but paradoxically this is not good now and it even becomes a fault. It is the umpteenth confirmation that [the press] are so afraid of this government of change.”

Still, his first real introduction to the people he is within touching distance of leading was a negative one. And it could be enough for Mattarella to use his power of veto to end Conte’s leadership foray, says Gian Franco Gallo, a political analyst with Milan’s ABS Securities.

“As a low-key figure without a real national profile, Conte was already an unusual choice to be prime minister,” he said.

“Now, with these new developments, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mattarella wanted to re-evaluate the situation.”

Others like Flavio Chiapponi, a political scientist at the University of Pavia and author of a book about M5S, and analyst Wolfango Piccoli, don’t expect Mattarella to be influenced by the unfavourable press.

“This is obviously less than ideal as a first impression, but I think the developments will hurt his prestige more than his candidacy,” said Chiapponi.

“Embellishing resumes is sport in Italy,” Piccoli added.