Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Rome on Saturday evening to celebrate the installation of Italy’s new populist government.
Attendees came from all over Italy to celebrate, excited to finally see their representatives from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement at the highest levels of the government, which was formed after the creation of a coalition with the far-right League party.
“It will take time, but Italy will change,” said 21-year-old Emma Daveti, an engineering student. She said she was aware the government has difficult tasks ahead, but she’s optimistic about the possibility of change.
“Now we have five years in government,” she said. “Rome was not built in a day.”
The celebrations coincided with Italy’s Republic Day, which marks the founding of the Italian republic. Planes flew over Rome, trailing smoke in red, white and green, the colors of the Italian flag.
“I am happy,” said Gabriella Jezler, a nurse from Florence. “I hope things will change. We want more respect as citizens and more respect of our country on a European level.”
The Five Star Movement, an anti-globalist and euroskeptic party, is half the alliance now governing Italy, along with the far-right League.
The new, unorthodox government was sworn in Friday following months of political turmoil. The country had been without a government since it went to the polls in March, the longest such period in the country’s postwar history.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella approved the new government Thursday, cementing Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, a 31-year-old college dropout, as one of the deputy prime ministers who will be a driving force in the government.
Though the new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte – a political novice – is prime minister, his power will be checked by his deputies, the leaders of the two largest parties that emerged from the inconclusive March 4 ballot.
The other deputy prime minister, 45-year-old Matteo Salvini, is the leader of the League party, and has promised to expel half a million illegal immigrants from Italy. He’s also shared anti-immigrant memes on social media. Salvini will serve as the new interior minister as well.
The League has also faced widespread criticism for xenophobic, anti-immigrant policies reminiscent of those forwarded by far-right parties across Europe, such as Germany’s AfD and the National Front in France.
CNN’s Livia Borghese reported from Rome, while Dakin Andone reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Spencer Feingold, Chandler Thornton and Delia Gallagher contributed to this report.