‘Renzi’s avatar’ Gentiloni to form new government in Italy

Italy president Sergio Matterella selects foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni to form a new government • Anti-establishment Five Star Movement calls Gentiloni “Renzi’s avatar because of his close relationship to the former prime minister

Paolo Gentiloni accepted the challenge of forming a new government
Paolo Gentiloni accepted the challenge of forming a new government

Italy‘s foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, accepted a presidential mandate on Sunday to try to form a new government, hoping to lead Italy out of a political crisis that followed the resignation of Matteo Renzi as prime minister.

Renzi stepped down last week after the defeat of a referendum on constitutional changes that he had hoped would streamline Italy’s government. He staked his seat on the outcome, and failed.

In a brief speech on Sunday, Gentiloni, 62, said he had accepted the challenge of forming a new government out of a “sense of responsibility.”

“I’m aware of the urgency to give Italy a government in the fullness of its powers, to reassure the citizens and to face with utmost commitment and determination international, economic and social priorities, starting with the reconstruction of the quake-hit areas,” he said.

In coming days, Gentiloni is expected to form a government using the same majority, led by the centre-left Democratic Party, as his predecessor, and to then face a confidence vote before Parliament, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

His cabinet is likely to resemble that of Renzi, with whom he has had a close relationship. For those reasons, the opposition, anti-establishment Five Star Movement has already called Gentiloni “Renzi’s avatar.”

Gentiloni, a journalist, has long worked in centre-left parties. A communications minister in Romano Prodi’s government until 2008, he has been in charge of Italy’s foreign affairs for two years.

He has advocated international support to stop violence in Libya and help for migrants who gather on those shores before risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean.

This year, he lobbied with the Egyptian government to find out who was responsible for the death of a young Italian researcher in Cairo.

In his brief speech on Sunday, Gentiloni said he would work to clarify Italy’s new electoral rules “with the necessary promptness.” Disputes over the laws are a central obstacle to the country’s holding a new election.

In late January, Italy’s Constitutional Court is scheduled to issue a much-awaited verdict on the current system, which may face an overhaul.

Most of the opposition parties are calling for elections soon after, a year ahead of the due date in spring 2018. But Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, noted at the end of his consultations with Italy’s political leaders that the Democratic Party still held a parliamentary majority.

The decision whether and when to call elections, then, will rest in the hands of Mattarella.

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