Centre-left's Letta named Italian PM

New government led by Letta can go to parliament for vote of confidence by this weekend.

    Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has nominated centre-left deputy leader Enrico Letta to form a new government, following elections in the eurozone's third largest economy in February. 

    Letta is expected to quickly select a group of ministers, mixed between politicians and technocrats, under the guidance of Napolitano, whose own unprecedented re-election last weekend opened the way for an end to the crisis.

    The new government led by Letta, a former Christian Democrat from the right wing of his Democratic Party (PD), could go to parliament for a vote of confidence by this weekend.

    Formation of a government after two months of turbulent political impasse will send a signal that Italy might at last be ready to make a start on much-needed reforms.

    Accepting his mandate, Letta said he was surprised by the nomination and felt the profound responsibility on his shoulders.

    Italy faced a "difficult and fragile" situation which could not continue and the government must provide answers on jobs, poverty and the crisis facing small businesses in a deep recession, he said.

    "I feel a strong responsibility on my shoulders, stronger than my shoulders' ability to support it," he told reporters at the president's palace.

    He said Italy's politicians had "lost all credibility" and appealed to the whole of parliament to back his reform efforts, including convincing the European Union to change the direction of policy which is "too focused on austerity".

    Generational change

    Napolitano's choice of Letta instead of veteran former prime minister Giuliano Amato, who was said to have been his original favourite, indicated he had plumped for a more political figure who reflects a generational change in Italian politics.

    I feel a strong responsibility on my shoulders, stronger than my shoulders' ability to support it.

    Enrico Letta
    Prime Minister-designate of Italy

    Letta, an urbane moderate who speaks fluent English, is 46 against Amato's 74 and is an elected member of parliament unlike the older, more experienced man.

    Al Jazeera's Claudio Lavanga, reporting from Rome, said that while Letta is still young, he is already a veteran of Italian politics.

    "[Napolitano] believes that [Letta] is the man who could gather the consensus in the government among different political factions that the government needs to get the government going," Lavanga said.

    Our correspondent also said that "there is no doubt" Letta would win a vote of confidence in the lower house of the Italian parliament.

    If approved, Letta would be the second-youngest prime minister in Italian history and as a staunch pro-European is likely to be welcomed by foreign governments and markets.

    The new government will be backed primarily by Letta's centre-left and the centre-right of Silvio Berlusconi, which had failed to cut a deal following inconclusive elections in late February.

    Market relief

    Investors have already reacted with relief to the prospect of an end to the intractable crisis, with Italy's borrowing costs on Wednesday tumbling to their lowest level since the start of European monetary union in 1999.

    However, the country's problems are not over, with significant differences remaining between left and right over economic policy.

    These were put sharply into focus even before Letta was chosen when Renato Brunetta, house leader for Berlusconi's PDL party, said they would only support a government committed to repealing a housing tax introduced by outgoing technocrat premier Mario Monti and paying it back.

    The centre-left agrees only to a partial reduction of the tax and many economists said such a move would leave a gaping hole in Italy's public accounts.

    Letta, the nephew of Berlusconi's long-time chief of staff Gianni Letta, is close to former party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who resigned at the weekend after rebels sabotaged him in the voting for a new president.

    Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party, Letta's PD and Monti's centrist Civic Choice movement had all said they would cooperate with whomever Napolitano chooses.

    Our correspondent said Berlusconi appears to be the biggest winner in the political in-fighting. 

    "Silvio Berlusconi was given for defeated and done for in January before the elections," Lavanga said. But now, he is back with polls showing his party could win if elections are held, he added.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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