Italy's newly elected prime minister, Romano Prodi, unveiled his center-left government Wednesday, ending weeks of political stalemate and pledging to rebuild solidarity and consensus after bitterly divisive elections.
Prodi heads up Italy's 61st postwar government
As expected, it features former Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema as foreign minister and former European Central Bank board member Tomasso Padoa-Schioppa as economics minister. D'Alema, 57, will also hold one of two deputy prime ministerial positions along with Francesco Rutelli, who doubles as culture minister.
Prodi was formally sworn in as prime minister by President Giorgio Napolitano ahead of his 25-member cabinet, ushering in a new era in Italian politics after his victory in last month's general elections, which is still being contested by the ousted center-right.
The appointment of the 65-year-old technocrat Padoa-Schioppa as economics minister is likely to be seen by the markets and international financial bodies as a promise of measures to reduce public debt, which mushroomed under the outgoing conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi.
Padoa-Schioppa's presence in the cabinet may reassure the business-minded
Prodi, a former European Commission president, was only able to complete his list after haggling within his nine-party coalition over key posts, which went on until the early hours of Wednesday. The bickering underlines the problems Prodi is likely to face in government as he defends a razor-thin parliamentary majority after the closest Italian election in living memory.
"There is a great desire for a new start combined with a desire for cohesion and unity," Prodi said after announcing his cabinet. "The first commitment will be to rebuild a spirit of solidarity and a consensus on the goals needed for the country to move forward, and that means lowering the level of tension and litigiousness," he added.
Prodi eventually made way for Democrats Union for Europe (Udeur) leader Mastella
His ministerial list featured a surprise choice of Clemente Mastella, leader of the small Catholic Udeur party, as justice minister. Mastella, whose party holds three Senate seats, had threatened to pull out of the government if he was not handed a key ministry.
The government is dominated by the two biggest center-left parties, the Democrats of the Left and the centrist Margherita, while Prodi is one of five independents. It includes one communist, Paolo Ferrero of the Refoundation Communist party, who will have responsibility for welfare, and six women -- four more than the outgoing center-right government. Alessandro Bianchi, who is an independent but is closely associated with the smaller Italian Communist Party, will take charge of transport.
More left-leaning than expected
The Corriere della Sera newspaper said in a front page editorial the new government was more left-leaning than had been anticipated.
"A government is born that is weighted to the left, even more than expected by the majority of those who elected it and the natural orientation of the coalition," it said.
The surprise choice of Mastella for the justice ministry was an early blow to leftists in the disparate coalition who have pledged wide-ranging social reform, not least the state recognition of same-sex couples -- fiercely opposed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Amato will take charge of the interior ministry
Former anti-corruption judge Antonio Di Pietro, who led the "Clean Hands" investigation into the links between big business and politics a decade ago, has been handed the infrastructure portfolio. Giuliano Amato, former vice chairman of the European Convention, which wrote the European Union's stalled constitution, will be interior minister in the new government.
Prodi said he would go before the Senate with a confidence motion on Thursday. A vote in Senate, where he holds a two-seat majority, is likely on Friday. A second vote of confidence is due to follow next week in the lower house chamber of deputies.