Rome: Premier Paolo Gentiloni urged Parliament on Tuesday to back his new government as it negotiates Italy's international commitments, a banking crisis and electoral reforms following the humiliating resignation of his predecessor, Matteo Renzi.
Gentiloni outlined his government's priorities in the lower Chamber of Deputies ahead of a confidence vote today, listing economic growth in Italy's underdeveloped south and rebuilding in Italy's earthquake-devastated towns as top items.
The chamber was nearly empty, however, as opposition lawmakers from the anti-EU Northern League and the populist 5-Star Movement stayed away to protest Gentiloni's "photocopied" Cabinet.
Opposition politicians say his cabinet choices, which mirror Renzi's, ignore the results of the December 4 referendum in which Italians overwhelmingly rejected Renzi's reforms.
The opposition is particularly irked that Renzi's reforms minister, who had promised to leave if the referendum failed, was named an undersecretary in Gentiloni's office.
Gentiloni defended Renzi's term and insisted that his Democratic Party, which still holds a majority, would last as long as it had Parliament's confidence. But he acknowledged the difficulties ahead, with an opposition that has been emboldened by Renzi's loss.
Gentiloni said his talks with lawmakers showed the "impossibility of a general convergence" but said he hoped that on individual items, opposition forces could find common ground with the majority.
Addressing Italy's banking crisis, Gentiloni said the government was ready to intervene to shore up banks and "guarantee" Italians' savings. And he said the government would help lawmakers draft a new electoral law that harmonizes the rules between both houses of Parliament.
Opposition parties have clamored for an early election following Renzi's drubbing at the polls, but the current law has one set of rules for the Senate and another for the lower Chamber of Deputies.
The lower chamber was to cast its confidence vote later today, while the Senate was expected to vote Wednesday. The aim is to have a government in place before Gentiloni heads to Brussels on Thursday for a European Council summit.