Italy's Five Star party forced to defend pick for prime minister as questions raised over CV

Nick Squires
Italy's two populist parties want Giuseppe Conte to be the country's next prime minister - AP

Italy’s populist Five Star Movement has been forced to defend its pick to be the country’s next prime minister after questions were raised over his curriculum vitae.

Giuseppe Conte, a law professor, was nominated by Five Star and their coalition partners, The League, as their choice for premier on Monday.

Sergio Mattarella, the president, is mulling whether to accept the nomination.

As he does so, doubts have been raised over the reliability of Professor Conte’s CV.

He claims to have spent at least a month every summer between 2008 and 2012 at New York University, “perfecting and updating” his studies.

But a spokesperson for the university told the New York Times: “A person by this name does not show up in any of our records as either a student or faculty member.”

She did add that it was conceivable that he had attended short courses or programmes lasting just one or two days, for which NYU does not keep records.

Prof Conte says he attended Cambridge University for a month in 2001 Credit: Nick Ansell/PA

Prof Conte also says on his CV that he attended Girton College, Cambridge, in September 2001, where he studied “scientific research”. There is no suggestion that this claim is false.

The Five Star Movement put out a statement insisting that there were no inconsistencies on Prof Conte’s CV.

“Giuseppe Conte wrote clearly that he perfected and updated his studies at New York University. He never said he attended courses at the university.”

The party’s statement did not explain what Prof Conte was doing there for a month each summer if he had not enrolled in any course or programme.

“Conte, like any researcher, went abroad to study, to deepen his knowledge, to perfect his English legal language skills," the party said.

Prof Conte, who has no political experience, was chosen as a neutral, acceptable compromise candidate by Luigi Di Maio, the head of the Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini, the head of the hard-Right League party, who both ruled themselves out of the top job.

He could have a tough challenge acting as go-between – the League and Five Star diverge on some key issues and the personalities of their leaders are very different.

Renowned as a sharp dresser with a penchant for waistcoats, cufflinks and pocket handkerchiefs, the 53-year-old teaches law at Florence University and Luiss University in Rome.