Doubts Cast Over Italian Populists' Premiership Candidate

(Bloomberg) -- The search for Italy’s next prime minister was thrown into disarray after doubts were cast over the suitability for the post of law professor Giuseppe Conte, the candidate chosen by populist allies.

Conte is no longer certain of endorsement by Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League, according to a Five Star official who declined to be named discussing a confidential matter. Di Maio himself may be back in the running for the premiership, the official said. Newspaper La Repubblica earlier reported doubts on Conte.

A League official, however, said the reported questioning of Conte’s candidacy was not completely accurate, without elaborating.

The New York Times earlier Tuesday questioned Conte’s curriculum vitae, which says that he stayed from 2008 to 2012, every summer and “for periods of not less than a month, at New York University, to perfect and update his studies.”

The newspaper quoted an NYU spokeswoman as saying Conte’s name did not show up in records as either a student or faculty member, adding it was possible he attended one or two-day programs for which the school does not keep records.

Giulia Grillo, who leads Five Star lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, told reporters that Conte is still the premiership candidate, according to newswire ANSA. Grillo criticized what she called “mud-slinging.”

Five Star said in an earlier statement that Conte in his CV “clearly wrote that he perfected and updated his studies at New York University. He never cited lessons or masters degrees attended at that university.”

Di Maio said Monday he’s proposed Conte, a 53-year-old law professor from Florence University to lead a coalition government with the League. President Sergio Mattarella is reviewing Conte’s dossier, and may take a decision on Wednesday, ANSA reported.

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Salvini has said that neither he nor Di Maio will be premier. Five Star officials said until shortly before Conte’s selection that Di Maio had not given up on hopes of becoming premier himself, as leader of the biggest party in the alliance.

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