May 17, 2006

Italy’s Prodi forms his government

By Silvia Aloisi and Francesca Piscioneri

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's incoming prime minister, Romano
Prodi, formed a new government on Wednesday, hours before he
was due to formally take power and end a five-week political

Prodi, who was given the mandate to govern on Tuesday,
presented his cabinet list to President Giorgio Napolitano
following protracted negotiations with his centre-left
coalition partners over the distribution of portfolios.

Prodi and his cabinet were to be sworn in at 4:30 p.m.
(1430 GMT), the president's office said.

The center left won a razor-thin victory in an April 9-10
election over Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc, which had
governed for a record five years.

Ten years to the day since he began his first stint as
prime minister, Prodi named former European Central Bank board
member Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa as economy minister, responsible
for tackling Italy's flagging economy and debt mountain.

Massimo D'Alema, who comes from the biggest party in
Prodi's centre-left coalition, was given the Foreign Ministry
and will share the role of deputy prime minister with Daisy
Party leader Francesco Rutelli.

Giuliano Amato, a former prime minister, will head the
Interior Ministry. Six women, fewer than promised by Prodi,
were also in the cabinet.

Prodi spent most of Wednesday morning putting the final
touches to his team after late-night talks with his allies who
had squabbled over top jobs since their "Union" coalition won
Italy's closest post-war election.


The infighting laid bare the problems that Prodi will
likely face as he governs with a wafer-thin parliamentary
majority stretching from Roman Catholic moderates to

"We are satisfied. Maybe not everyone is happy, but
happiness is not of this world," Prodi said shortly before
announcing his team.

His government needs to get down to work quickly as rating
agencies have threatened to downgrade Italy's debt unless
overdue but unpopular reforms are enacted soon.

But outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is still
disputing the election results, has vowed to lead a head-on
opposition, and analysts say Prodi will have difficulty pushing
through far-reaching reforms.

Under a headline "More left than center," Italy's leading
newspaper Corriere della Sera said wrangling over cabinet posts
had skewed the government's balance from its centrist roots.

"A government is born that is weighted to the left, even
more than expected by the greater part of those who voted for
it and the natural orientation of the coalition," it wrote.

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

He must still win a confidence vote in the Senate, probably
on Friday, and another in the lower house early next week,
before fully taking charge.

As the 66-year-old former European Commission chief takes
over from Berlusconi, many commentators wonder how long he can
last. His first spell in government ended after two years in
1998 when the communists withdrew their support complaining his
policies were not left wing enough.

In his final press conference as prime minister on Tuesday,
Berlusconi said his was "only a see you later," not a farewell.

(Additional reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio, Giuseppe
Fonte, Rachel Sanderson)