ROME (Reuters) - Italy will back Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno to be the next chairman of euro zone finance ministers, a government source said on Wednesday.
Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni appeared to rule out his own economy minister, Pier Carlo Padoan, for the influential role, saying national elections due in the country next year made his candidacy difficult.
A government source, who declined to be named, said Italy would instead support Centeno to replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is stepping down from the post after losing his job as Dutch finance minister following elections this year in the Netherlands.
Dijsselbloem is set to announce on Dec. 1 the list of candidates who have stepped forward. A front runner has not yet emerged, with a number of names, including Slovakia's Peter Kazimir, suggested as possible alternatives.
EU leaders discussed the issue on the sidelines of a summit in Abidjan on Wednesday.
"Padoan is universally considered to be a highly authoritative person," Gentiloni told reporters afterwards. "But on the other hand, it will not have escaped anyone’s notice that, barring unexpected surprises, my government has a rather short shelf life, and this represents a problem."
The Italian Parliament is widely expected to be dissolved at the end of the year, with elections due by May at the latest. Opinion polls suggest the ruling centre-left Democratic Party will lose power.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Agnieszka Flak, Larry King)