Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Monti (R) and outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi before the bell ceremony marking the moment Monti takes office at Palazzo Chigi
– New Italian government does not include a single elected politician (Telegraph, Nov. 16, 2011):
Mario Monti, Italy’s new prime minister, appointed a government without a single politician on Wednesday, forming a technical administration which faces the daunting challenge of preventing the country from being dragged deeper into the euro zone debt crisis.
The emergency administration, which is meant to govern Italy until elections are due in 2013, is made up of bankers, lawyers and university professors but not a single elected official – an extraordinary development for a Western democracy.
But it is a deal that much of the electorate and nearly all the mainstream parties have signed up to, in order to save Italy from the economic abyss by trimming the country’s bloated bureaucracy, slashing its 1.9 trillion euro debt and unleashing its economic potential after years of stagnation.
Almost none of the new appointees was familiar to the average man or woman in the street – a fact that some Italians hailed as the new administration’s chief strength, saying it was above party politics and untainted by any links to the discredited centre-Right government of Silvio Berlusconi or the weak and divided centre-Left opposition. Italy has a track record of appointing ‘technical’ governments during periods of political paralysis and party deadlock.
Mr Monti said that after talks with the country’s big parties, he had decided that “the non-presence of politicians in the government would help it.”
He and his ministers were sworn in at a ceremony at the Quirinale Palace, a former papal residence that is now used by Italy’s presidents, bringing a formal end to Mr Berlusconi’s three year government and the 17 years in which he dominated the country’s political arena.
The new government’s task is to implement a package of austerity measures and public spending cuts which were passed by parliament in the dying days of Mr Berlusconi’s government.
Mr Monti, 68, nicknamed “Super Mario” for his intellect, diplomatic skills and 10-year record as a European competition commissioner, will double up as both prime minister and economy minister.
He said he hoped the new government would be able to restore market confidence in Italy and bring to an end a period of heightened political tension but added that “sacrifices” would be required of the Italian people.
The post of infrastructure and economic development – a crucial job as Italy tries to boost its anaemic growth as well as implement austerity cuts – went to Corrado Passera, the chief executive officer of one of Italy’s biggest banks, Intesa SanPaolo.
The new foreign minister will be Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, the current ambassador to Washington.
The position of interior minister goes to one of three women in the new line-up: Anna Maria Cancellieri.
The justice minister – who will have jurisdiction over the four sex and corruption trials in which Mr Berlusconi is a defendant – will also be a woman, Paola Severino, a lawyer.
The defence portfolio went to Giampaolo Di Paola, a navy admiral who is currently Nato’s top military officer.
The new administration, which replaces Mr Berlusconi’s conservative coalition after he was forced to step down on Saturday, is expected to announce details of its reform programme on Thursday and will then face confidence votes in the two houses of parliament in order to show that it has sufficient support to push through the reforms.
The government has the support of most of Italy’s political parties, apart from the powerful Northern League and elements of Mr Berlusconi’s PDL party.
They have complained vociferously that he was forced to stand down not by a democratic process but by a “coup d’etat” engineered by Brussels, bankers and the financial markets.
Mr Berlusconi has said that he was not constitutionally obliged to resign, because the vote he lost in parliament last week was not a confidence vote, and that his decision to step down was an act of self-sacrifice and “responsibility”.
Roberto Maroni, one of Mr Berlusconi’s most senior former ministers, made an allusion to “The Italian Job”, the 1969 British film starring Michael Caine.
“The truth is that there was a big operation, an ‘Italian Job’, to get Berlusconi out of the way by forcing him to resign”, the former interior minister told a television programme on Tuesday.