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[Newsmaker] Expectations high for Italy’s new gov't

Italy’s new center-left prime minister Enrico Letta ended two months of political deadlock by naming his Cabinet on Saturday amid heightened hopes from financial investors and international observers.

Letta pulled off a deal on the formation of a new government, a coalition that brings together Letta’s Democratic Party and the People of Freedom Party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Letta, who speaks fluent English, has built up solid relations on both sides of parliament and is also the nephew of Gianni Letta, who has served as the closest political advisor for Berlusconi. 
Enrico Letta. (AP-Yonhap News)
Enrico Letta. (AP-Yonhap News)

Eyes are trained on how the unprecedented “compromise” between Italy’s current right- and left-wing parties will play out in the following months, particularly given that the country’s political circles are not familiar with grand coalitions.

After all, the 46-year-old politician expressed “sober satisfaction over the team we put together,” referring to the results of the three-day talks with rival parties.

A moderate and pro-European, Letta opted for pragmatic centrist politicians or veteran technocrats like Fabrizio Saccomanni, the Bank of Italy director general.

He called on the whole of parliament to support his reform efforts, including convincing the European Union to change the direction of policy which is “too focused on austerity.”

“I feel a strong responsibility on my shoulders, stronger than my shoulders’ ability to support it,” he said.

Letta comes from the centrist wing of the center-left Democratic Party and has had a high-flying career since the early 1990s when he joined the now-defunct Christian Democrats who dominated postwar Italian politics.

At the age of 31 he was already deputy leader of the Popular Party. In 1998, he became European affairs minister, becoming the country’s youngest postwar Cabinet member at age 33.

Although he has a distinctive career, Letta confronts a slews of challenges. One major task as prime minister is to find a way to secure more budget flexibility for Italy from the EU. Aside from resolving some policy differences with Berlusconi, Letta also has to push forward with measures to revive the economy and reform the electoral law.

(From news reports)
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