Why Italy's new government may not look much different than the old one

Incoming Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni kept several of the key players from the government of outgoing Premier Matteo Renzi.

Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA/AP
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni sits before giving his first speech as premier at the lower house where he will later face a confidence vote, in Rome Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016.

Italy’s new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is urging the nation’s parliament to support his initial moves in combating failing banks and bringing about much needed electoral reforms in the wake of his predecessor Matteo Renzi’s resignation.

But members of parliament have taken a tough stance against Mr. Gentiloni, opposing a newly picked cabinet that too closely resembles the one Mr. Renzi assembled. The move violates the results of last week’s referendum, in which voters largely rejected Renzi’s reforms, members of the opposing parties say.

As established politicians seek to bolster the nation’s banks and find ways to assist the European Union in handling the continent’s refugee crisis, those in the opposition are clamoring for change.

Renzi resigned last week following the referendum, which was seen as a pushback on his leadership as prime minister. Gentiloni, who previously served as the minister of foreign affairs, was sworn in as Renzi’s replacement Monday.

Under Gentiloni’s new cabinet, several of Renzi’s ministers were slated to keep their positions, and were sworn in Monday. They include the ministers of finance, reforms, defense, justice, health, infrastructure, and culture.

Speaking before Parliament Tuesday, Gentiloni said the government planned to intervene in the banking crisis, hoping to guarantee Italians’ savings.

"I want to say very clearly that the government ... is ready to intervene in order to guarantee the stability of banks and the savings of our citizens," he said.

He also vowed to assist lawmakers in drafting an electoral law that would alleviate some of the constraints created by varying rules in Parliament’s two houses.

In the opposition’s camp was the Five Star Movement, a populist group that formerly residing on the fringe of the political system that has grown in popularity and is making its way closer to the nation’s mainstage. The party doesn’t embody the hard-right ideologies and anti-immigration policies many of the populist movements across Europe have used to propel themselves forward, but centers around an anti-establishment platform.

We’re not of the left or the right,” Luigi Di Maio, the Five Star party’s potential candidate for prime minister and the deputy leader of the lower house of Parliament, told The New York Times. “We don’t recognize ourselves in these ideologically motivated parties.”

Found in 2009, the party sought to create a dominant web presence and appeal to Italians who feel left behind in an era where the European Union has become a larger player. It has since harnessed the anger of citizens and directed those feelings at the nation’s elites, polling around 30 percent in a multiparty race for prime minister.

While Gentiloni was sworn in Monday, he must receive votes of confidence from both houses of parliament to receive the full powers of the office. The first vote Tuesday in the lower house is expected to go in his favor, but Wednesday’s vote in the Senate could prove problematic, as members of the Five Star movement and the right-wing Northern League party have vowed to protest the lack of cabinet shakeup by abstaining from the vote.

Some say Gentiloni’s failure to respond to the referendum with sweeping changes could bury his Democratic party.

"They are digging their grave with their own hands," Mr. Di Maio told Reuters.

Information from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.

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