Italian leftist Letta set to receive PM nomination
Italian leftist Enrico Letta was set to be nominated to be the new prime minister on Wednesday, bringing to an end a two-month deadlock on forming a new government with the launch of a coalition between right, centre and left.
President Giorgio Napolitano, who was re-elected to a second term just last week after an agreement between the main parties, summoned Letta to the presidential palace for the expected nomination.
Letta was seen arriving for the meeting.
The 46-year-old already has extensive government experience and is seen as a "post-ideological" moderate able to bring together the bickering parties that had held up a government deal and bring politics closer to ordinary people.
A former leader of the youth wing of the centre-right Christian Democratic party, Letta is now the deputy leader of the Democratic Party, which is badly divided over joining with Silvio Berlusconi loyalists in government.
Adding to Letta's cross-party credentials is the fact that his uncle, Gianni Letta, has been Berlusconi's right-hand man for many years.
The youthful Letta is expected to select ministers and formally accept the nomination within days, with analysts predicting the government could be fully installed by the end of this week.
The eurozone's third largest economy has been mired in a bitter political crisis ever since a general election in which a centre-left coalition led by the Democratic Party came first but failed to win an overall parliamentary majority.
The gridlock has spooked European capitals and investors had warned that prolonged uncertainty could lead to instability on the financial markets for a recession-ravaged economy that is struggling to keep its public finances in check.
"Constant conflict is a luxury that Italy cannot afford. The government has to be one of national pacification," said Massimo Franco, a columnist for the top-selling Corriere della Sera daily.
The Democratic Party (PD), which had previously ruled out an alliance with Berlusconi's rightist People of Freedom party, said on Tuesday it was open to any option suggested by the 87-year-old president.
"A grand coalition government is a bitter medicine for the PD," said Stefano Folli, columnist for business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
Berlusconi has already said his party will support the president's choice, as has the centrist Civic Choice group led by Prime Minister Mario Monti.
The combinaton of right, centre and left mirrors the loose alliance that backed Monti's reform-oriented technocratic government until Berlusconi pulled his party's support for it in December, precipitating early elections.
The PD has been badly divided since the inconclusive result of the February 24-25 polls and its entire leadership resigned on Friday after two of its presidential nominations failed to get voted because of a rebellion within party ranks.
Napolitano was eventually re-elected on Saturday -- the first Italian president to stay on -- after the main political parties pleaded with him to resolve their differences.
At his swearing-in on Monday, Napolitano accused the parties of being "deaf" to the calls for reform from ordinary Italians and of committing "mistakes, omissions and irresponsibilities".
Napolitano threatened to resign if the parties continued stalling and said they should form a government "without delay" based on a realistic assessment of their strength in parliament.
The Five Star Movement, a new protest party that won a quarter of the vote and came third in the elections, said after talks with Napolitano on Tuesday that it would lead the opposition.
Several smaller parties on both right and left also said they would stay out of the new cabinet.
Monti's government remains in office until a new one is formed but it has only interim powers.
Business leaders, trade unionists and the Catholic Church have urged politicians to act quickly as a painful recession forces firms to shut down and leaves many Italians struggling to make ends meet.
Stocks have been performing well in recent days as the long political crisis has drawn to an end but stocks in Milan responded negatively to reports of Letta's expected nomination, with the benchmark index down by 0.6 percent.
The favourite for the nomination had been Giuliano Amato, a 74-year-old two-time former prime minister and academic who has a strong reputation in Europe.