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Italy swears in new PM

February 22, 2014

Italy's new prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and his cabinet have been sworn into office at a ceremony in Rome. The new government is the youngest in the recent Italian history.

Newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano during the swearing in ceremony for 16 new ministers at Quirinale palace in Rome February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Matteo Renzi (above r.) was sworn in as Italy's new prime minister on Saturday a day after accepting the role from President Giorgio Napolitano (above l.) and unveiling his 16-strong cabinet.

The swearing-in of the prime minister took place at a ceremony in Rome under the auspices of Napolitano.

At 39, Renzi is the youngest-ever person to take the reins in the eurozone's third largest economy, and his cabinet, with an average age of 47.8 years, is also the most youthful in recent Italian history.

As a result, the government is facing widespread skepticism as to whether it has the political maturity to cope with the challenges currently facing the country.

Huge problems

Italy is still fighting to emerge from a deep recession and to cut back its massive public debt, which is equivalent to 130 percent of total economic output. Unemployment is also at a near record 12.7 percent overall, and at 41.6 percent among the young.

Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, earlier this month engineered the ouster of his predecessor - and fellow Democratic Party member - Enrico Letta, charging Letta with failing to enact reforms to counter corruption and excessive bureaucracy.

Half of the cabinet he unveiled on Friday comprises women - also a record for Italy - and Renzi changed the majority of posts in it from the former government, having said he was reluctant to keep a team that had worked with Letta.

The new prime minister has promised a total overhaul of election regulations and the constitutional system to give Italy more stable governments in future. He also pledges to reform to the labor and tax systems and slim down the swollen public administration.

Key post

One cabinet appointment that met with general approval from political observers was that of Pier Carlo Padoan to the key post of finance minister.

Padoan is the chief economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

But opinion leader Marco Travaglio wrote in the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano that the new cabinet was "a boiled chicken soup that disappoints even the most lukewarm expectations."

Renzi will also face a challenge in maintaining equilibrium in his center-left and right coalition government.

From Monday, his government will first be confronted by confidence votes in parliament.

tj/hc (AFP, dpa)