Matteo Renzi forms Italy's new coalition government; at 39, he'll be youngest premier

The Associated Press

Italian Premier designate Matteo Renzi meets reporters at the Quirinale presidential palace, Rome, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi has formed Italy's new government, saying the broad coalition aims to give the economically-strapped country "hope. When he and his Cabinet are sworn in on Saturday, Renzi, who had been serving as Florence mayor, will be Italy's youngest premier. Renzi said Friday he aims with his leadership to give a "strong message" to the international community that Italy will be achieving sorely needed electoral and economic reforms quickly. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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ROME (AP) — Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi formed Italy's new government on Friday and said his broad coalition is aiming to give the economically-stagnant country some "hope."

At 39, Renzi will become Italy's youngest premier when he and his Cabinet are sworn in on Saturday. He will also be the third straight premier to come into the office without being elected. The last premier who stood for election was the scandal-tainted Silvio Berlusconi in 2008.

Renzi had been serving as Florence mayor when he engineered a power grab last week to effectively force fellow Democrat Enrico Letta to reluctantly relinquish the premiership after 10 months at the helm of a fragile, often-squabbling coalition.

Renzi is depending on the same coalition partners. As well as his center-left Democratic Party, which will remain the biggest party, his government is being propped up by two smaller groupings — supporters of former premier Mario Monti and former loyalists of center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.

Renzi told reporters at the presidential palace that he's aiming to give a "strong message" to the international community that his government will enact electoral and economic reforms quickly.

President Giorgio Napolitano urged the new government to swiftly enact the reforms crucially needed to make Italy competitive. "

"We cannot afford the luxury of losing this occasion," Napolitano said.

Renzi said he intended to keep his government alive for four years — until the full term of Parliament expires in 2018. However, with the same government partners and Berlusconi eager to have his conservative Forza Italia party return to power, many observers are skeptical Renzi's government can go the distance.

He is entrusting the key economic ministry to Pier Carlo Padoan, who, as chief economist for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, will bring international prestige and experience.

In an interesting development, Renzi's 16 top ministers are equally divided between men and women. Most are career politicians — a further shift away from the "technocrat" cabinet that Monti had led when tapped by Napolitano in late 2011.

Then Italy was lurching on the verge of financial disaster when international markets lost faith in then-premier Berlusconi to enact the austerity measures needed to keep the country spinning out of the euro-currency zone and dragging other European economies with it.

Letta was thrust aside by the brash, ambitious Renzi just as Italy has just begun to show signs of growth and bond market investors appeared to be less concerned over the country's ability to repay its debts. Of the 18 European Union countries that use the euro, only Greece's debt burden is higher.

Even so, industrialists eager for growth and unions frustrated by high unemployment pressed for a change of government leadership.

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