Deal reached on new Italian government

Centre-left politician Enrico Letta says coalition to include an ally of former PM Silvio Berlusconi as deputy premier.

    An Italian centre-left politician has reached a deal to form a new government, raising hopes of ending months of political uncertainty triggered by February's inconclusive elections.

    Enrico Letta said on Saturday that the government, a coalition between his Democratic Party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi's People of Liberty (PDL) party, will include one of the former prime minister's closest allies as deputy prime minister.

    In addition to that post, Angelino Alfano, PDL secretary, will also be the interior minister.

    Letta, who earlier met President Georgio Napolitano to discuss the new cabinet, said the economy ministry would go to Fabrizio Saccomanni, the current Bank of Italy director-general, while Emma Bonino, the former European Commissioner, will be foreign minister.

    Letta's coalition will be sworn in at 09:30 GMT on Sunday and Letta, 46, is expected to go before parliament to seek a vote of confidence on Monday.

    Italy has been without a government since elections in February ended with no party winning a clear majority.

    Media had reported about possible cabinet candidates throughout the day in constantly updated "Toto minister" pools, based on the popular system for betting on the results of Italian football matches.

    Young blood

    Letta has said he wants to move quickly to tackle the social fallout of a painful recession and Napolitano has been urging him to include younger ministers and women in his cabinet to help give the country's tired political scene a makeover.

    Negotiations with Berlcusconi, the billionaire politician mired in scandals, have not been easy as he has insisted on the abolition and repayment of a controversial housing tax introduced in 2012.

    Such a move would set the budget back $10.4bn in a country suffering from its longest recession in 20 years, according to news agencies.

    The PD, which narrowly won inconclusive general elections in February, has also deeply divided over going into government with Berlusconi's.

    There had been calls from both sides to prevent rival figures from Italy's political scene from taking ministerial posts - with Berlusconi, Mario Monti, the ex-caretaker prime minister, and former premiers Giuliano Amato and Massimo D'Alema the names most fiercely contested.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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