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Italy's Letta enters political twister

Italy's Letta enters political twister
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Enrico Letta, not only as deputy leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has extensive government experience. Letta has already served in four governments, including as minister for Europe and for trade and industry.

With a doctorate in international law, he used to be in the Christian Democratic party, until it crumbled under corruption. A keen supporter of European integration, he has also been an MEP, with the Liberals and Democrats, serving in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

President Napolitano’s nomination of Letta to try to form a government indicated a change of direction towards a political figure who reflects a generational change in Italian politics.

In the confusion of voter disgust following the general election in February, Letta said: “Politics lost its credibility because of the scandals and difficulties we’ve had in recent years. The credibility of politicians today is subject to the quality of the answers we know how to provide. The answers so far haven’t been strong enough.”

The urbane moderate, at ease in English, will be the second youngest prime minister in Italian postwar history.

Now he has taken on the tortuous job of contortionist: stark differences remain between left and right over economic policy, which mean Letta can look forward to playing political twister.

The centre-right have said they would only support a government committed to repealing and paying back a hated housing tax introduced by outgoing technocrat premier Mario Monti.

The whole leadership of the Democratic Party left resigned at the weekend, leaving it weakened, and the country’s third-largest political force since the election, the Five-Star Movement, has in any case proved many voters’ disenchantment with the traditional main parties.

Letta warns that all the warring groups must make compromises, to allow Italy to climb out of recession.