Italian lawyer Giuseppe Conte was plucked out of political obscurity to become prime minister in 2018 after the populist Five Star Movement’s election triumph.
Conte is now leading the movement into Sunday’s snap general election after succeeding Luigi di Maio as leader two years ago.
With Italians once again at the polls, Conte’s party eschews Italy’s left-right political binary.
The right-wing bloc consists of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, FDI); Matteo Salvini’s Northern League (Lega Nord, LN); and Silvio Berlusconi’s Go Italy. On the left is the Democratic Party who has aligned itself with a smattering of other smaller parties.
During his time in government with Salvini and Di Maio in 2018-19, Conte issued a hardline decree on security and immigration during his short tenure.
With similar views on trade and immigration, he became a firm European ally of former US President Donald Trump.
However, relations between the coalition partners Di Maio and Salvini soured in 2019, triggering a political crisis. After just months in power, Conte accused Salvini of triggering the crisis in a bid to cash in on surging poll numbers and force an election.
However, Conte soon formed an unlikely coalition with the centre-left Democratic Party and continued in power.
The next challenge in Conte’s tenure was the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw him announce drastic measures as Italy became the first European country to be hit by a wave of infections.
Thanks to regular television appearances and press conferences, Conte became a familiar face during a dark chapter for the European nation and his popularity skyrocketed
His rise reached its peak at the end of July 2020 when he exited EU stimulus negotiations having secured some €200 billion in non-repayable funds.
However, his majority soon fell apart and, in February 2021, Conte was forced to give way to technocrat Mario Draghi.
Today, his anti-establishment movement is a minor party in the election race.
But Conte is hoping his plans to scrap regional business tax and introduce a minimum wage will win over the electorate.