Italian national pride on display as political crisis ends

ROME — Italy’s new populist leaders promised to get to work creating jobs and curbing illegal migration as they made their first official outing Saturday at the symbolically-rich anniversary commemorations of the founding of the Italian republic.

Premier Giuseppe Conte and his newly sworn-in Cabinet had places of honour to view the pomp-filled military parade and Italy’s aeronautic acrobatic squad. The planes flew low and loud over downtown Rome trailing smoke in the red, white and green of the Italian flag.

The Italian national pride on display is a feature of every Republic Day, but it took on a particular significance this year after Italy on Friday ended three months of political and financial turmoil and swore in a government whose populist and euroskeptic leanings have alarmed Europe.

Conte, a law professor plucked from relative obscurity to head an unlikely governing alliance of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and right-wing League party, said the celebrations Saturday transcended all the tensions of recent days.

“It’s the celebration for all of us, of our republic,” he said.

President Sergio Mattarella placed a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Republic Day commemorates the day, June 2, 1946, when Italians voted in a referendum to abolish the monarchy in favour of a republic, Italy’s first.

The political upheaval that has created western Europe’s first populist government this week has been dubbed Italy’s Third Republic.

Conte’s Cabinet was sworn in Friday after a last-minute deal averted the threat of a new election that had sent stock markets around the world tumbling. The political stability brought financial relief, but Italy’s European neighbours continued to express their concerns about the euroskeptic bent and the heavy spending plans of the 5-Star-League agenda.

“Italy is destroying itself — and dragging down Europe with it,” read the headline of Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the cover of which featured a forkful of spaghetti with one dangling strand tied up as a noose.

Conte left policy specifics to the drivers of his improbable rise, with 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio reporting for work after the parade to the ministry of economic development, which would have otherwise been closed for the national holiday.

“Starting today, we get to work to create work,” Di Maio said in a Facebook video giving Italians a tour of the empty ministry. Di Maio is also minister of labour, a combination he said made sense since the two ministries must work together.

League leader Matteo Salvini, meanwhile, had a series of rallies in northern Italy. He heads Sunday to Sicily, the destination for most of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have arrived in Italy in recent years after setting off on smugglers’ boats from lawless Libya.

“We have to improve deals with countries of origin,” Salvini said.

Ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi, meanwhile, vowed that his right-wing Forza Italia party would vote against the government in next week’s mandatory confidence votes in parliament.

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