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Italy’s New Populist Government Articulates Vision, but Few Specifics

Parliament, an older model of representative democracy, “will also help us,” he said.

Dressed elegantly in a dark suit, purple tie and white pocket kerchief, Mr. Conte looked like the father of a bride or a chief executive officer of a fashion house, but said his responsibility was to the voters “who live outside of these palaces.”

He lamented the sins of modern capitalism and inequality. He assured Italians — and international investors and nervous markets — that Italy, a founding member of the European Union, would stay in its “home,” and that leaving euro was “never in discussion.”

Italy’s New Populist Government Articulates Vision, but Few Specifics
Italy’s New Populist Government Articulates Vision, but Few Specifics

After his speech, Italian government bond prices fell, perhaps in reaction to Mr. Conte’s saying he was “confident of our negotiating power” with Brussels.

Italy, he said, will reduce its hulking public debt, but “we want to do it by increasing our wealth, not through the austerity measures that in recent years have allowed it to grow.”

Mr. Conte mostly avoided foreign affairs, other than to talk up the sanctity of Italy’s relationship with the United States and NATO, before adding: “Mind you! We’ll be the advocates of an opening towards Russia.” He said his government would support lifting sanctions on Russia, imposed after its incursion into Ukraine.

On Sunday in northern Italy, George Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic donor, accused Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, of receiving money from Russia. Mr. Soros offered no proof and Mr. Salvini — who is open about his admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin, and was once photographed in front of the Kremlin wearing a shirt with his face on it — has long denied the accusation.

Lifting Russian sanctions was one of the few solid proposals in the speech, so much so that Mr. Conte’s remark that “I won’t dwell on the details” prompted mocking grumbles in the opposition.

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