May 16, 2006

Prodi to present Italian cabinet

By Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's incoming Prime Minister Romano
Prodi presents his government on Wednesday, following
protracted coalition bickering over cabinet posts and more than
a month after his narrow general election victory.

President Giorgio Napolitano named Prodi prime minister on
Tuesday after consulting party heads, including outgoing Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi who alleges voting fraud.

The 66-year-old former European Commission chief said he
would return to the president on Wednesday with his list of
ministers, expected to be sworn into office the same day.

"I guaranteed the president we will work to form a balanced
and solid government that can tackle the country's political
and economic problems," Prodi told reporters.

But he admitted that he had still not satisfied all the
demands of his patchwork coalition, which has been fighting
over cabinet posts since the election five and a half weeks

Prodi's final list will not be known until he meets the
president on Wednesday and some last-minute changes were not
ruled out. He was expected to present his cabinet in the early
afternoon, Italian news agencies said.

Prodi has said on several occasions that his cabinet list
was already drawn up, only to be contradicted by party chiefs
who said there was still work to be done.

A few posts appeared to have been agreed without
difficulty. Former European Central Bank board member Tommaso
Padoa-Schioppa was expected to be named economy minister and
former Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema to get the foreign

Berlusconi said on Tuesday parliament must launch a probe
into "irregularities" in the April 9-10 election, which he lost
by less than 25,000 votes, the narrowest margin in Italian

He ruled out any cooperation with the new administration,
meaning Prodi will need the unwavering loyalty of every party
in his coalition -- ranging from moderate Catholics to
communists -- to pass legislation and avoid government

Prodi's first spell in government ended after just two
years in 1998, when the communists withdrew their support
complaining his policies were not left-wing enough.

Prodi's path to power since the election has been delayed
by the need to choose a new head of state as the former
president's mandate expired just after the election.

Once he has announced his team he must still win a
confidence vote in the Senate, probably by Friday, and another
in the lower house early next week, before starting work.

His first months in government will be intense. Two ratings
agencies have indicated they will downgrade Italy's debt unless
he quickly produces a strategy to improve public finances and
boost Italy's dwindling competitiveness.