Rome

Enrico Letta looks poised to get govt mandate

PD deputy secretary to meet president at 12:30

Enrico Letta looks poised to get govt mandate

Rome, April 24 - Enrico Letta, the deputy secretary of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), is to meet Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at 12:30 on Wednesday, when he is expected to be given a mandate to form a new government. Napolitano is likely to ask Letta, 46, to be the premier of a government that has wide cross-party backing to end two months of political deadlock after February's inconclusive general election, with problems piling up for the recession-hit nation. The head of State, who reluctantly agreed be to re-elected Saturday after Italy's squabbling parties failed to agree on a successor to him, is set to choose a centre-left candidate as the PD is the biggest party in parliament. However, the party is also ravaged by rifts, as seen by Pier Luigi Bersani quitting as PD chief at the weekend after two candidates he proposed for president were scuppered by rebels within its ranks. Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party and outgoing Premier Mario Monti's Civic Choice party have said they will back a broad coalition government, which is expected to be sworn in within days. The government should work on the based of a programme Napolitano recently asked a group of experts, dubbed the 10 wise men, to to pass key reforms, including a new electoral law to replace the one that did not deliver a winner in February. "The key questions are labor and political reform," Letta said after leading the PD delegation in a fast round of talks Napolitano had with the parties on Tuesday. The administration is likely to include institutional figures and PD, PdL and Civic Choice politicians, unlike Monti's emergency government, which is made up of unelected technocrats. There was speculation Napolitano wanted to give the mandate to another senior centre-left figure, two-time premier Giuliano Amato, but opted not to because of fears parts of the PD would rebel in a confidence vote in parliament on an administration led by the 74-year-old. Amato, who has a much higher international profile than Letta, is associated with a discredited part of the old political class by some people. Letta, the nephew of centre-right leader Berlusconi's long-time chief of staff Gianni Letta, is a moderate and is seen as having more support from the so-called young Turks in the party. But he is also considered close to Bersani and is not the ideal candidate for some PD MPs. Indeed, Rosy Bindi, who quit as PD president at the weekend, has said she was opposed to Letta being premier and to the PD being part of a broad coalition government. There is even speculation some parts of the PD opposed to any form of cooperation with Berlusconi may split from the party. The anti-estasblishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) has said it is against this sort of coalition government and so is the left-wing SEL party, which was allied with the PD in February's election. It is not clear whether the Northern League will back a Letta administration after saying it would never back a government led by Amato, who had two short stints as premier between 1992 and 1993 and 2000 and 2001. After February's election Napolitano first gave a mandate to Bersani to try to form a government. But Bersani ruled out forming a grand coalition with the PdL party and failed in a bid to reach out to the M5S, which won about a quarter of the vote, leaving the country in a situation of gridlock. Napolitano said the parties had behaved irresponsibly and has threatened to quit if they refuse to form a stable government this time. "If I find myself once again facing the kind of deafness I ran into in the past, I will not hesitate to draw the consequences," Napolitano said after being sworn-in for the second time on Monday.

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