Italy's New Premier, Cut From Old Cloth, Talks Reform

ITALIAN Prime Minister Giuliano Amato's government will be leaner, but not meaner.

That, at least, is how critics see it.

Skeptics say the new leaders - who belong to the same parties that voters punished in the April 5-6 elections - cannot be expected to deliver Italy from its political and economic woes.

"To us it seems a government that, whether it's the program of the president or the ministers, is not adequate for the very difficult passage that the country faces," says Claudio Ligas, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of the Left. "It's true, they're not the same identical persons, but they represent the same political forces."

The Christian Democrats, the Socialists, the Social Democrats, and the Liberals return to power in the coalition government announced June 28. Parliament opened debate on Mr. Amato's roster of ministers on June 30, and its approval was expected by a bare majority.

With his ministers in place, Amato can start to work on his government's priorities, which he announced last week:

* Economic recovery. Concern is often expressed here that Italy's massive public debt could force it out of the coming unified European market.

* Action against organized crime. The May 23 assassination of leading anti-Mafia Judge Giovanni Falcone in Palermo still resonates here, with calls for tough action, such as the creation of a "super prosecutor" of the Mafia and an Italian equivalent to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In addition, the country has been anxiously watching the case of Farouk Kassam, an eight-year-old boy who was kidnapped in Sardinia on Jan. 15 for about $8.5 million ransom, money that his father, a hotel manager on the popular resort island, says the family does not have. All over Italy June 28, white sheets fluttered from balconies and clothes lines in solidarity with Farouk's family, following reports of brutal treatment of the child by his kidnappers.

* A "moralization" of politics. The investigation of kickbacks for construction projects, which began last month, continues to unfold in Milan and in other parts of Italy. Dozens of politicians, many in Amato's Socialist Party, have been implicated.

* Electoral reform. This would include decentralizing state power and giving greater power to local authorities. Mario Segni, a popular leader in the Christian Democratic Party, is pressing for direct election of mayors. Under the current system, city councils, which are elected by the people, appoint mayors.

One of the landmark decisions in Amato's new Cabinet was the exclusion from the government of his predecessor, Guilio Andreotti.

Mr. Andreotti led seven governments and has been a political presence in Italy over more than four decades. He is not out of the political scene altogether, however: He stays on in Parliament, where he is a senator for life.

Andreotti says he calmly accepted the news that he would not be part of the new government.

"I can guarantee that I slept as normally as ever and that I didn't pass the night in tears," the former prime minister writes in his weekly column for Europeo magazine. Nor does he consider his political career ended, he adds. "I indeed do not consider the life of a parliamentarian second rate."

Amato's government reduces the number of ministers from 32 to 24. Although more than half have never been ministers before, the government is still dominated by the Christian Democrats, who have led the Italian republic since its founding after World War II, although Amato himself is a Socialist.

Two women are among the new ministers: Rosa Russo Jervolino in the education post and Margherita Boniver for tourism.

The Democratic Party of the Left (the former Communist party), was excluded from the coalition even though it got more votes than any party except the Christian Democrats.

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