Economist Mario Monti is named to form new Italian government
The appointment came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tendered his resignation, setting off widespread celebration on the streets of the capital.
President Giorgio Napolitano's announcement means the 68-year-old Monti will try to form a technocratic government with the difficult task of enacting austerity measures sought by the European Union. The EU is demanding that Italy cut public spending, reform its pension system and take other steps to reduce the government's large debt burden and to spur the world’s eighth-largest economy, which has stagnated.
Italy became in recent weeks a focal point of the Eurozone's debt crisis, joining Greece, as investors grew increasingly anxious about Berlusconi's leadership and the fractured Parliament's ability to come together on a package of economic reforms.
Berlusconi faced intense pressure to step down after market interest rates on Italian government bonds rose sharply. And with the government set to sell more bonds this week, Napolitano and other Italian leaders were keen on announcing a new leader before markets opened Monday morning.
Monti is perhaps best known as the EU commissioner who led an antitrust case against Microsoft. The staid, professorial Monti presents a striking contrast to Berlusconi, a flamboyant billionaire whose tenure has been marked by sex scandals, reckless remarks and financial mismanagement.
Monti is expected Monday to win a vote of confidence from a majority in Parliament, to be followed by the appointment of ministry heads.
— Don Lee
Photo: Mario Monti and his wife, Elsa, leave church in Rome after attending mass Sunday. Credit: Claudio Peri / EPA