Italian PM Giuseppe Conte resigned on Jan. 26 (but is still in office until a successor is chosen). I was surprised to see on his Wikipedia page (emphasis mine):

Following the 2018 general election, he was proposed as the independent leader of a coalition government between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, despite not having previously held any political position.

I thought PMs were normally MPs themselves even if technically they don't have to be. Does Italy use non-MP PMs? Why did they this time?

  • 2
    Yes, and very recent Draghi nomination as next possible PM is another example.
    – user 66974
    Feb 3, 2021 at 16:32
  • 3
    Conte nomination ( lawyer and professor with no political experience) as PM was really “unusual”, but at that time it was the only possible compromise to please the requests from the new 5Star Movement whose main feature was to be “anti-political” in the traditional sense.
    – user 66974
    Feb 3, 2021 at 16:36
  • @user66974: you should probably write an answer with the contents of those comments.
    – Fizz
    Feb 3, 2021 at 16:37
  • @Fizz - I think the OP is actually looking for the law which doesn’t require a PM not to necessarily be an MP. I need to look for that.
    – user 66974
    Feb 3, 2021 at 16:46
  • 1
    @user66974 No, it's not a legal question, it's about tradition/principles Feb 3, 2021 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


In Italy the PM is not the Prime Minister but instead the President of the Council of Ministers. This means that he cannot change a Minister and he has not the last word on who is chosen as minister. Is more like "primus inter pares".


According to article 92 (link in italian) of the Italian Constitution, the PM is chosen by the President of the Italian Republic. The ministers are chosen by President of the Republic in agreement with the proposal of the PM. Those are rules.


Then comes the practice and "tradition". Usually the President of the Republic listens the representatives of all Parties inside the Parliament ("consultazioni" phase) to check if there is the opportunity to build a majority. Sometimes there are no chances to build a political majority: in those cases the President of the Republic can choose for new elections or keep working to find a consensus among MPs.

Most of the cases of italian PMs that were not an MP were chosen due to incumbent crisis: in those cases the President can find a person of high profile that can guide the country outside the crisis. Example of that were:

  • Ciampi (1993, was the first case of PM-not-MP) - manage the transaction after the Mani Pulite corruption scandal,
  • Dini (1995, was the first italian 'technical' gabinet where none of the ministers was MP) - need to bring the country to elections ASAP.
  • Monti (2011, due to debt crisis) was a "strange" case: until few days before becoming PM, he was appointed as lifelong-senator. So he lead a "technical cabinet" but he was technically a MP.
  • Draghi (2021, if he will be able to create a cabinet) - health and economic crisis due to Coronavirus.

A rare case is the one of Renzi (2014): he wasn't a MP but he was Secretary of Democratic Party, the main-party of the majority.

Another case is when a coalition is built after the vote, creating a conflict on who will be the PM. A way to get out of mess, is to find a third person that will harvest agreement from all parts inside the coalition: this was the case of Conte (2018-2021 with two different coalitions).

Below I show the lists related to last 30 years (the political habits and tradition before 1993 was totally different and I think is not useful to put that time inside this analisis).

PMs that were MPs since 1993:

  1. Gentiloni 2016-2018
  2. Letta 2013-2014
  3. Monti 2011-2013 (He was an independent, but became Lifelong-senator just before PM)
  4. Berlusconi '94-'95 2001-2006 2008-2011
  5. Prodi '96-'98 2006-2008
  6. Amato '92-93 2000-2001
  7. D'Alema '98-2000

PMs that were NOT MPs since 1993:

  1. Conte 2018-2021 (Independent)
  2. Renzi 2014-2016 (Secretary of the Democratic Party)
  3. Amato 2000-2001 (he was PM and MP in the '92-93)
  4. Dini '95-'96 (he was director of Banca D'Italia)
  5. Ciampi '93-'94 (he was governor of Banca D'Italia)

Source: List of PMs


According to The Constitution of Italy :

The office of Prime Minister is established by Articles 92 through 96 of the Constitution of Italy. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic after each general election and must have the confidence of the Italian Parliament to stay in office.

The four articles (92 to 96) don’t actually state precise requirements (political, professional or else) for a potential Prime Minister

Traditionally PMs are political leaders, and Giulio Andreotti, who was elected PM for six times, is probably the most well-known example.

In recent years, mainly because of the ever-increasing public debt (public spending became a political tool to attract voters), the need for so called “technical governments” has increased from time to time, in an effort to reduce the public deficit and debt.

With that, new political parties and movements have tried to change things. The anti-establishment 5Star Movement is probably the best example.

Ex PM. Conte (a lawyer and professor with no political experience) and now Draghi are recent examples of non political leaders who have tried and hopefully will succeed in bring about the reforms (fiscal, electoral, justice) the country needs.

  • 3
    It is implicit in this answer, but I think it is worth saying it explicitly: the reason to go for "technical governments" is because the politicians do not want to take responsability for the unpopular reforms that are nonetheless made necessary by the circumstances. For example look at the sad case of Elsa Fornero which still receives frequently death threats, while being of course not responsible at all of the disastrous financial situation she was handed in 2011. Feb 3, 2021 at 19:21
  • 1
    @DenisNardin: Definitely worth saying explicitly. Until reading your comment, I had no idea what this answer meant by that paragraph.
    – ruakh
    Feb 4, 2021 at 0:05
  • 1
    @ruakh - the key issue is “(public spending became a political tool to attract voters)”. If you reverse that....
    – user 66974
    Feb 4, 2021 at 6:43

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