Italy's President asks foreign minister to form new govt

Mr Gentiloni (at podium) is to begin consultations to form a government. If he fails, President Mattarella could ask someone else to try. If he succeeds, a new government could be installed within days.
Mr Gentiloni (at podium) is to begin consultations to form a government. If he fails, President Mattarella could ask someone else to try. If he succeeds, a new government could be installed within days.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME • Italy's President Sergio Mattarella yesterday gave Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni a mandate to try to form the country's new government.

The 62-year-old prime-minister- designate is a key member of outgoing premier Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party. Mr Renzi resigned on Wednesday after losing a referendum on constitutional reform on which he had staked his job, plunging Italy into a government crisis.

The next moves for Mr Gentiloni, a former journalist and Renzi loyalist, are a familiar process in Italy, which has had 63 governments in the past 70 years.

After receiving the mandate from President Mattarella, he is to begin consultations with political forces to form a government.

Mr Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) has a majority in both houses of Parliament but the PD itself is severely divided between Renzi backers, such as Mr Gentiloni, and opponents.

All major parties have called for elections as soon as possible. But before any vote can take place, Italy needs a new electoral law to replace one that applies only to the Lower House and could be declared illegitimate in January by the Constitutional Court.

The legislature is due to carry on until 2018, but early elections could be called at any time after Parliament rewrites the electoral law.

Mr Gentiloni will report back to Mr Mattarella on his progress in rallying support and, if he cannot assemble political backing for a new government, Mr Mattarella could ask someone else to try.

If Mr Gentiloni is successful, a new government could be installed within days.

The next incumbent will immediately face a crisis in the banking sector, whose third-largest lender, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, may need state intervention to avoid collapse.

After consulting around 40 political parties over the past three days, Mr Mattarella pledged on Saturday to act quickly to give the country a fully functioning government.

Opposition parties were anticipating that the required vote of confidence in a new administration would take place on Wednesday. The populist Five Star Movement, which has led calls for immediate elections, said it would boycott the vote because the new government would have no legitimacy.

Mr Mattarella said on Saturday that the country urgently needed a "fully functioning government" to handle a string of pressing problems.

Five Star, Italy's biggest opposition party, and the far-right Northern League are demanding a vote as soon as possible.

But Mr Mattarella, who enjoys extensive executive powers during government crises, said on Saturday an election could take place only after revision of current electoral laws.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'Italy's President asks foreign minister to form new govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe