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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

2 hours ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

3 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.