Italy set to get new prime minister

Challenge for Letta now is whether can he form a government

Enrico Letta said he accepted the job knowing it was an enormous responsibility and that Italy’s political class had “lost all credibility”. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Enrico Letta said he accepted the job knowing it was an enormous responsibility and that Italy’s political class had “lost all credibility”. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 00:43


Italy’s two-month-long government crisis may finally be coming to an end following the nomination yesterday of Enrico Letta of the Democratic Party (PD) as prime minister-elect.

Mr Letta (46), who has served in four centre-left governments in the last 15 years, is expected to head a cross-party government comprising essentially three elements – the PDs, the People of Freedom party of media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi and the Civic Choice centrist group of current prime minister Mario Monti. The M5S protest movement of former comedian Beppe Grillo will be in the ranks of the official opposition.

Mr Letta, who was the youngest cabinet minister in Italian history when appointed to the government of Massimo D’Alema in 1998, is expected to consult with allies and rivals today before returning to state president Giorgio Napolitano, perhaps tomorrow or on Saturday, to confirm that he will be able to form a government.

When he met briefly with the media yesterday after accepting his provisional nomination, Mr Letta made no attempt to hide the difficult task awaiting him. “This is a heavy weight of responsibility that I feel on my shoulders... Italians are fed up with all the political tricks and games. They want answers ...” he said.

Mr Letta was referring both to the two-month stalemate that has blocked the formation of a new government following the inconclusive February elections and also to last week’s bungled presidential election.

That episode concluded with the PD appealing to President Napolitano (87) to stay on in office, after the PDs had twice failed to get their candidate elected. Speaking after he nominated Mr Letta yesterday, Mr Napolitano said the formation of a cross-party, “broad-based” government represented the “only possible solution”.

Mr Letta, who said that his government would be one “of service to the country”, may be better placed than many in the bitterly divided PD party to head a cross-party executive. He is the nephew of Gianni Letta (78), for long one of Mr Berlusconi’s closest political advisers and a man who has served as his cabinet under secretary. Even though the Lettas find themselves on opposite sides of the Italian political divide, they have always maintained close contact.

Enrico Letta, who comes from a Christian Democrat background, may well owe his nomination not only to his ability to have dialogue with the centre-right but also to his relatively young age.