Giulio Tremonti is Italy’s new economy minister, returning to his old job after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi moved to head off a crisis by replacing Domenico Siniscalco.
Tremonti was named to the job he held last year after Berlusconi called an emergency meeting of coalition leaders to discuss the situation caused by Siniscalco’s departure. Siniscalco said he was stepping down because of infighting over the 2006 budget and the government’s failure to dismiss the scandal-hit governor of the Bank of Italy, Antonio Fazio. His resignation comes at a delicate time for the government. With a general election on the horizon, Berlusconi is struggling to keep his coalition united. The leader of Italy’s centre left opposition, Romano Prodi, called for early elections. He said: “Given the gravity of the circumstances, I ask for the resignation of the government and I call for new elections to be held immediately.” Elections are due within six months at the latest. Berlusconi has resisted calls to take firm action against central bank chief Fazio, who is embroiled in a take-over scandal, because he is backed by a key coalition partner, the Northern League. Meanwhile, the coalition allies say they still plan to present a budget package. Analysts fear that Berlusconi may push through a voter-friendly budget despite weak public finances and a growing deficit. A more rigourous budget might alienate opinion and reduce even further his chances of holding on to power.