Italian president nominates center-left official as premier
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
The New York Times | April 25,2013
Italian Democratic Party lawmaker Enrico Letta makes his statement to the media after talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, in which Letta was appointed premier and will try to form a government to end Italy’s political paralysis and set the country back on the path of reform and economic growth.
ROME — President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday nominated Enrico Letta, the deputy head of the Democratic Party, as prime minister, tasked with forming a government to lead the country out of weeks of political impasse after inconclusive national elections.
Letta announced that he would consult with the country’s leaders Thursday to discuss its “fragile and unprecedented” political situation, and ask for their support.
“We paved the way to form a government that the country urgently needs and has too long waited for,” Napolitano said soon after Letta’s nomination.
Napolitano praised Letta’s cultural background, government experience and international standing, calling his profile “excellent” for the complicated task of guiding Italy in a turbulent time. He added that there was “no alternative” to his candidacy.
Letta listed unemployment and the economic crisis as among the top issues that the new government should address. He also said Italy needed to reduce the number of Parliament members, change its elections law and restore the credibility of its political class.
Letta, 46, is considered a moderate figure capable of reuniting the embattled, center-left Democratic Party with Prime Minister Mario Monti’s Civic Choice group and the center-right. Letta is a nephew of Gianni Letta, a close aide to Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister.
He has held government posts related to European and economic affairs, and he has also been a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.
Former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato had also been named by Italian news media as a front-runner.
Letta said he would meet with political leaders Thursday to gauge what kind of support his government might have. If he believes he can be successful, he will accept Napolitano’s nomination and present a list of ministers for his Cabinet. He will then ask for a vote of confidence in both houses of Parliament.
Napolitano was re-elected as president for an unprecedented second term over the weekend after lawmakers failed to choose an alternative candidate. His precondition for renewing his mandate was that the political parties overcome their differences to form a government.
Failure to do so would result in the dissolution of Parliament, new elections and his own resignation, Napolitano warned lawmakers at his inaugural address.
Elections at the end of February split Parliament into three mutually hostile political groups, and efforts by the Democratic Party, which narrowly won the vote, to form a government were inconclusive.
Many Democratic Party lawmakers refused to make a deal with the party headed by Berlusconi, the controversial political leader who has dominated Italian politics for two decades. He was plagued by personal scandals and criticism that his government’s economic policies did not spare Italy the brunt of the eurozone crisis.
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which won 25 percent of the national vote riding a wave of widespread frustration with anger toward the political class, has refused to make any alliances.
Napolitano, 87, was re-elected Saturday. He reluctantly accepted, chastising lawmakers for leading the country into political paralysis and telling them to quickly find a compromise or face the consequences.
In a highly emotional speech, he also criticized politicians for failing to approve urgent institutional and economic reforms, even as Italy’s economy continues to shrink. The country is in the grip of the worst economic recession since the end of World War II.
The current crisis, Napolitano said, is the result “of a long series of omissions and flaws, closures and irresponsibility.”
Though Italians have demanded deep-rooted changes of their political leaders and a renewal of the existing political system, such demands have fallen on deaf ears, he said. Responses have been slow in coming, and are distorted by political tactics and calculations. Politicians have ignored demands for greater transparency, moral rectitude and a significant reduction in the cost of politics, he added.