MILAN — Italy has a new Prime Minister.
The country’s president, Sergio Mattarella, on Sunday gave a mandate to Paolo Gentiloni to form a new government. Gentiloni succeeds Matteo Renzi.
The descendant of a noble family, Gentiloni, 62, was foreign minister under Renzi.
After a one-hour meeting with Mattarella on Sunday, Gentiloni underscored during a press conference televised live at around 1:15 p.m. the “need to provide Italy with a government in full power,” in light of the “international, economic and social priorities.” He pointed to rebuilding the areas hit by a deadly earthquake and its aftershocks as one such priority and he pledged to work on a new electoral law. One of the most immediate challenges Gentiloni will face is the banking crisis, in particular the future of the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
As the main opposition parties had rejected Renzi’s call for a new broad-based government, Gentiloni said that, “not out of choice, but because of a sense of responsibility,” he will “move within the framework of the outgoing government and majority.”
The appointment came only one week after Renzi’s resignation in the wake of the referendum defeat on Dec. 4. As reported, the referendum saw the “no” front win with 59.11 percent share. Renzi had been promoting a referendum to vote on a change in the country’s constitution, which he claimed would streamline Italy’s government decisions. Renzi, who had vowed to step down if he lost the referendum, took full responsibility for the defeat.
Born in Rome, Gentiloni, who is also a journalist, is one of the founders of the Democratic Party and loyal to Renzi. For this reason, opposing parties on Sunday expressed their frustration with Mattarella’s decision, claiming that Gentiloni’s appointment waved away the result of the Dec. 4 referendum.
Alessandro Di Battista, a member of Parliament from the Five Star party, said in a post on Facebook that Renzi himself had suggested Gentiloni to Mattarella and called him Renzi’s “avatar.” Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, said Gentiloni was the fourth premier “not elected by anyone, the poor and useless photocopy of Renzi” — after Prime Ministers Mario Monti, Enrico Letta and Renzi.
In his previous role, Gentiloni was vocal about asking the European Union to share responsibility in supporting migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa. He also forged a strong relationship with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during talks on the Libyan crisis, while he maintained diplomatic relations with Russia. He was the first European minister to fly to Cuba after the U.S. opening to the Caribbean island.
Gentiloni beat other high-profile figures that were touted as potential successors, including Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank; Pietro Grasso, president of the Senate, and Pier Carlo Padoan, minister of economy and finances. Another option for Mattarella, who dismissed the possibility of new elections, would have been to ask Renzi to step up again. Renzi over the past few days had reiterated that his resignation was final, although he is still secretary of his party, the Democratic Party.