Italy has its 58th government since World War II. Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and 23 ministers from eight political parties were sworn into office earlier this week. It is Mr. Amato’s second stint as prime minister; he is unlikely to enjoy this term in office.
Mr. Amato was picked to head the new government when the center-left coalition of his predecessor, Mr. Massimo D’Alema, got shellacked in regional polls earlier this month. Unwilling to call a general election, the president turned to Mr. Amato to cobble together what is certain to be a stopgap Cabinet. The problems were visible from the outset.
Although the new prime minister promised to cut the size of the Cabinet, it is only one seat smaller than its predecessor. Two hours after the lineup was announced, the outgoing Green Environment Minister Edo Ronchi declined a new post as European Union affairs minister because his party was losing the environment portfolio. His replacement was picked by party bosses, another sign that Mr. Amato will be captive to the whims of his coalition partners.
His first test comes later this week, when he faces votes of confidence in both house of Parliament. His slim margin could become even thinner since several representatives are sick; Prime Minister Romano Prodi lost a similar vote by one ballot in 1998, and Italian legislators are notoriously undisciplined by party affiliation.
Mr. Amato is known as “Dr. Subtle” for the light touch that won him widespread respect during his first term in office in 1992-1993. He will need all those skills to steer electoral reform — his first priority — through the unruly Parliament. Italy has had two prime ministers and three governments since elections in 1996. There are more than 40 parties, and representatives shift allegiances with the seasons. The summer is always hot in Rome. This year may be even hotter than most.
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