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Europe

Enrico Letta nominated as Italy's new prime minister

© AFP

Video by Seema Gupta

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-24

Enrico Letta, deputy leader of Italy’s Democratic Party, appears set to become the country’s prime minister after being asked to form a new government on Wednesday in a bid to end the country’s months-long political crisis.

Enrico Letta is set to become Italy's new prime minister, after being asked by President Giorgio Napolitano to form a coalition government that musters broad cross-party support.

Two months after Italy’s inconclusive general elections, the 46-year-old deputy leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) has been tasked with leading the country out of parliamentary deadlock.

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Rome, Seema Gupta, described Enrico Letta as a career politician who could bring rival political parties together.

Letta 'the chosen man to end Italy's political paralysis'

“He’s very young in the context of Italian politics (…) He’s considered moderate and close to [former PD leader] Bersani, he’s a former industry as well as a former European affairs minister in previous governments”, said Seema Gupta.

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.

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

He will 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 hitherto failed to cut a deal following inconclusive elections in late February.

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.

“Letta clearly recognised what a tough task he had ahead of him, he has said that Italy is at a fragile and unprecedented step right now", reported FRANCE 24’s Gupta Seema.

“He’s set to begin his consultations tomorrow with the political parties (…) There are lot of speculations in the media in Italy; perhaps he’s going to look at technocrats as well as a mixture of politicians. Some of the names mentioned include Angelino Alfano from the centre-right as a possible deputy prime minister, and even Mario Monti as a foreign minister”.

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.

Italy's next premier says the European Union must move away from austerity

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 hated 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 say such a move would leave a gaping hole in Italy’s public accounts.

But Napolitano, who reluctantly agreed to serve another term as president, has made clear that he will brook no more endless squabbling between the parties and has threatened to resign if they do not unite behind economic policies and important constitutional reforms.

Chief among these is the repeal of a dysfunctional electoral law which was largely responsible for the post election impasse.

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.

“Given the crisis the country finds itself in, the country needs a strong, a durable government that can make important decisions,” Berlusconi said after meeting Napolitano on Tuesday.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-04-24

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