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Italy unveils new government similar to outgoing Renzi cabinet

Vincenzo Pinto, AFP | Italy's newly appointed Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (left) receives the traditional silver bell from his predecessor Matteo Renzi as his government is sworn in on December 12, 2016, in Rome.

Italy on Monday rushed to swear in its 64th government in 70 years, a centre-left coalition headed by new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and strikingly similar in makeup to the one led by his predecessor Matteo Renzi.


Gentiloni, 62, served as Renzi's foreign minister until the latter resigned after voters resoundingly defeated a December 4 referendum on government-backed constitutional reforms.

The new prime minister is a staunch backer of Renzi. Even before he announced his cabinet, some observers took to dubbing it the "Renziloni" government.

Its composition prompted fresh calls from opposition forces and even from within the ruling Democrat Party for hastened elections.

Profile: Paolo Gentiloni

Gentiloni is "Renzi's double," Roberto Fico, a leader of the opposition 5-Star Movement, said in comments to Corriere della Sera daily.

Among the holdovers from Renzi's cabinet are economist Pier Carlo Padoan, who remains as finance minister, and Roberta Pinotti, who will continue as defence minister.

Outgoing interior minister Angelino Alfano, a former Silvio Berlusconi ally, switches to the foreign ministry, where he will continue to deal with the flood of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

After seeing 64 governments since World War II, Italians are used to political crises. This one, prompted by Renzi's resignation last week, had a rapid resolution.

Italy's head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, summoned Gentiloni to the presidential palace on Sunday to ask him to form a government, working with the same Democratic Party majority in parliament.

By Monday night, Gentiloni was back at the palace and sworn in as premier, along with the ministers whose names he had announced only 90 minutes earlier.

Gentiloni will lay out his coalition's platform to parliament on Tuesday, ahead of required confidence votes on the new government in both chambers.

Early elections?

But while the immediate crisis has ended, Italy's politics remain roiled. Opposition parties, and even prominent critics within the Democratic Party, are sharply critical of what they see as a Renzi copycat government.

Matteo Salvini, who heads the anti-migrant Northern League, said he would hit the streets of Palermo and Milan this weekend seeking signatures to "ask for elections immediately".

Five-Star leader Beppe Grillo, a former comedian who wants a referendum on quitting the euro currency, has also called for rallies in Italy's public squares to build momentum for early elections.

The fall of Italy's hurried prince

But many, starting with President Mattarella, agree Italy must first urgently overhaul its election law to make the country more governable.

The current law has one set of electoral rules for the Senate and another for the lower Chamber of Deputies. That's because voters in the recent referendum rejected changes that would have made the Senate not directly elected.

Besides changing the election law, Gentiloni said the new government's priorities include efforts to help "the middle class, those suffering" economically, especially "in the south where [lack of] work is a greater-than-ever emergency".

Youth unemployment nationally is running at 36 percent, recently down from 40 percent, and as high as 50 percent in southern Italy.

Renzi's flagship labour market reform, dubbed the “Jobs Act”, is widely regarded as having failed to kick-start Italy’s sluggish economy, which is also burdened by a lingering banking crisis.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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