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Cottarelli speaks after meeting with Mattarella. Photo: Michele Spatari/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A whiplash-inducing turn of events has seen Italy's president (who is not popularly elected) veto a government proposed by the populist Five Star and League parties and ask an ex-IMF economist to form a government.

Why it matters: Italy has now had a series of prime ministers take office without winning a popular mandate at the ballot box, dating back to Silvio Berlusconi's ouster in 2011. Current president Sergio Mattarella's drastic steps have sparked a debate over whether he is overruling the will of the people, or acting within constitutional bounds.

How it happened: Law professor and political novice Giuseppe Conte was put forth for prime minister last week by the populist parties, which performed best in the topsy-turvy March 4 election.

  • Conte's proposed cabinet included 81-year-old eurosceptic economist Paolo Savona as finance minister. Mattarella said he couldn't accept a minister who advocated for leaving the euro.
  • Conte abandoned his attempt to form a government, and Mattarella settled on Carlo Cottarelli, whose politics could hardly be more different.
  • The populist parties want to block his appointment, and impeach Mattarella. Cottarelli, meanwhile, says fresh elections will be held early next year.

Correction: This article previously referred to Berlusconi as Sergio, rather than Silvio.

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of the pandemic holiday season

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.