Fri, May 19, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Romano Prodi sworn in as Italian prime minister


Romano Prodi was sworn in on Wednesday as prime minister, along with his 25-member Cabinet, whose selection was calibrated to reflect the demands of the nine diverse center-left parties that support him.

At a time when Italy faces difficult economic problems, and will need political compromises to overcome them, the parsing of seats was complicated. At least one party leader threatened to quit if he did not get a top job, a potentially fatal danger to Prodi's government, considering his thin majority.

But on Wednesday Prodi appeared with a beaming smile in the Quirinale Palace in front of the new president, Giorgio Napolitano, to be sworn in.

"There is a great desire for a new start, combined with a desire for cohesion and unity," he told reporters earlier in the day, after the Cabinet had been announced.

Prodi said his government would last the full five-year term. Italy has had more than 60 governments since World War II, and the only prime minister to maintain his government for a full term was Silvio Berlusconi, whom Prodi defeated in close national elections last month. Berlusconi and his new center-right opposition have vowed to bring down the government as quickly as possible.

Prodi's selection for the most important post, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa as finance minister, won wide praise among economists at a time when credit rating agencies are pushing Italy to make difficult reforms. A former board member at the European Central Bank, he is considered a technocrat without strong party affiliations.

Elsewhere, however, the Cabinet is dominated by members of the two largest center-left parties: the Democrats of the Left and the Daisy Party, whose leading representatives were named deputy prime ministers. One, Massimo D'Alema, of the Democrats of the Left, was also named foreign minister; the other, Francesco Rutelli, of the Daisy Party, was also named culture minister.

Two people close to Prodi, who does not have a party of his own to fall back on, were named to major positions: Giuliano Amato, a former prime minister whom Prodi had backed for president, is minister of the interior, and Arturo Parisi, of the Daisy Party, is defense minister.

Clemente Mastella, leader of the Democratic Union for Europe, was named minister of justice, after threatening to leave government if he did not receive a top position. He is a conservative, and there was speculation that his appointment could complicate any drive to recognize same-sex unions.

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