Gen­tiloni named as Italy’s new prime min­is­ter

‘Ur­gent need for a fully func­tion­ing govern­ment’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Paolo Gen­tiloni was named yes­ter­day as Italy’s new prime min­is­ter fol­low­ing re­formist leader Mat­teo Renzi’s res­ig­na­tion in the wake of a crush­ing ref­er­en­dum de­feat. Gen­tiloni, who served as foreign min­is­ter un­der Renzi, was asked by Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella to form a new cen­tre-left govern­ment that will guide Italy to elec­tions due by Fe­bru­ary 2018.

A close ally of the out­go­ing premier, Gen­tiloni now has to put to­gether his own govern­ment team ahead of a par­lia­men­tary ap­proval vote ex­pected on Wed­nes­day. In a brief state­ment, Gen­tiloni said there was an “ur­gent need for a fully func­tion­ing govern­ment” to ad­dress a se­ries of press­ing in­ter­na­tional, eco­nomic and so­cial is­sues.

Chief among those is a loom­ing cri­sis in the trou­bled bank­ing sec­tor and on­go­ing re­lief ef­forts af­ter a se­ries of deadly earth­quakes be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber. Mattarella turned to Gen­tiloni af­ter op­po­si­tion par­ties re­buffed over­tures about a pos­si­ble na­tional unity govern­ment. The pres­i­dent re­jected op­po­si­tion de­mands for an im­me­di­ate elec­tion.

“Not by choice but out of a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity I will be form­ing a govern­ment based on the out­go­ing ma­jor­ity,” Gen­tiloni said. Renzi, who had been in power for two years and 10 months, re­signed last week af­ter vot­ers over­whelm­ingly re­jected a pack­age of con­sti­tu­tional re­forms on which he had staked his fu­ture. The pop­ulist Five Star Move­ment, which has led calls for im­me­di­ate elec­tions, said it would boy­cott Wed­nes­day’s vote be­cause the new govern­ment would have no le­git­i­macy. “This govern­ment is not even wor­thy of a vote against it,” said Gi­u­lia Grillo, head of the Five Star group in the Se­nate.

Pup­pet premier?

Gen­tiloni, 62, is very close to Renzi and will be seen by the op­po­si­tion as a pup­pet premier keep­ing the seat warm for for­mer boss, who is plan­ning a come­back at the next elec­tions, when­ever they are. In a state­ment on his Facebook page, Renzi, 41, ad­mit­ted it had been a wrench to leave of­fice and vowed to pur­sue his re­form agenda.

“It was painful to pack the car­tons yes­ter­day evening, I’m not ashamed to say: I’m not a ro­bot,” he wrote. “Only those who try to change things can help a coun­try as beau­ti­ful and dif­fi­cult as Italy.” Five Star, Italy’s big­gest op­po­si­tion party, and the far-right North­ern League are de­mand­ing a vote as early as pos­si­ble. But Mattarella, who en­joys ex­ten­sive ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers dur­ing govern­ment crises, has ruled that the cur­rent elec­toral laws must be re­vised first.

The­o­ret­i­cally that could hap­pen quickly but the process of har­mo­niz­ing the rules gov­ern­ing elec­tions to the two houses of par­lia­ment, the Cham­ber of Deputies and the Se­nate, could also drag on for months. As things stand, the lower house would be elected by a sys­tem un­der which the largest party is guar­an­teed a ma­jor­ity of seats while the Se­nate would be voted in un­der a pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion sys­tem. Most ob­servers agree that this is a recipe for chaos.

Small in­vestors’ fury

The sit­u­a­tion could be sim­pli­fied at the end of Jan­uary, when the con­sti­tu­tional court is due to rule on the le­git­i­macy of the new winner-take-all sys­tem for the Cham­ber of Deputies. Gen­tiloni had taken over as foreign min­is­ter in Oc­to­ber 2014, re­plac­ing Fed­er­ica Mogherini who is cur­rently serv­ing as EU foreign pol­icy chief.

He is a long­stand­ing friend and soul­mate of Renzi’s and cyn­ics will say that the sil­ver-haired, grey-suited politi­cian’s pri­mary qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the job is that he poses no threat to the for­mer premier’s come­back plans. Gen­tiloni’s first tricky task as prime min­is­ter is likely to be over­see­ing a res­cue of trou­bled bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS).

A state-funded sal­vage op­er­a­tion is seen as in­evitable fol­low­ing the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank’s re­fusal on Fri­day to al­low more time for a pri­vate bailout. Un­der EU rules, state funds can be in­jected into trou­bled banks only if pri­vate cred­i­tors ac­cept losses. In the case of BMPS, this could hit many small in­vestors who hold the bank’s ju­nior bonds. Im­pos­ing losses at smaller banks last year caused out­rage in Italy and dam­aged Renzi’s stand­ing.

— AP

ROME: Paolo Gen­tiloni, left, leaves the Ital­ian lower Cham­ber yes­ter­day.

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