Following the 4 December referendum, a new government is appointed

On 13 and 14 December 2016, the new government, led by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, obtained a vote of confidence from both branches of Parliament, effectively starting the 64th government of the Italian Republic.

The Italian Prime Minister

paolo gentiloniPaolo Gentiloni, 62, is a highly regarded, experienced Italian politician. A founding member of the Democratic Party (2007), PM Gentiloni served in roles of growing responsibility since he started his political career in 1993 as the spokesperson for Francesco Rutelli, former Mayor of Rome.

Elected as a member of Parliament in each political election since 2001, PM Gentiloni previously served as Minister for Communications in Romano Prodi’s 2006 government, and more recently as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government led by Matteo Renzi. It was, in fact, the resignation of PM Renzi, whom Gentiloni is considered a trusted ally of, on 5 December 2016 that paved the way to Gentiloni’s appointment as Prime Minister.

With an understated personality, down-to-earth attitude and a non-confrontational style, Gentiloni is widely recognized as a skilled and patient negotiator. Despite having served in highly-visible, public roles, he grew surprisingly few enemies in Italian politics, and rarely embraced divisive and highly politicized positions.

Gentiloni’s reputation as a trusted and reliable counterpart was central to his appointment as Prime Minister, at a time when the failed referendum on the constitutional reforms threw the country in a period of uncertainty and as it transitions towards the next political elections to be held no later than February 2018.

The political context

On Sunday 4 December 2016, in a historic night for Italian politics, voters largely rejected the constitutional reforms promoted by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government. PM Renzi promptly resigned, but maintained the key role of Secretary of the Democratic Party, which currently holds the parliamentary majority. As a result, Renzi had the responsibility of choosing a potential successor and the opportunity to effectively veto most alternatives.  

In this context, the appointment of Prime Minister Gentiloni is a choice of continuity, with most Cabinet members retaining their former positions. In today’s political climate, the new government is mainly seen as a ‘vehicle’ to transition the legislature towards the elections, with the crucial task of writing a new electoral law.

Accordingly, the key item of debate today is ‘how long’ this government will last. Election options range from anticipated elections as early as March 2017, to the natural end of the legislature in February 2018. Both former Prime Minister Renzi and the main opposition parties are calling for elections to be held as soon as possible. The traditional political center-ground, concerned with the growing anti-establishment sentiment fueled by the 5 Star Movement, favors a longer transition, with notable support from the Italian President.

Although in its earliest stage, the preferred strategy for the Democratic Party, and effectively for Genitiloni’s government, is to move as quickly as possible on defining a new electoral law (allegedly written with the intent of containing the expected success of the populist parties) and then to call for snap elections between April and June 2017.

Should this timeline prove to be impossible to maintain – finding a parliamentary agreement over a new electoral law is an extremely challenging task in today’s harshly polarized political climate – it is not unlikely that a ‘political accident’ will be induced by MPs loyal to former PM Renzi to force the resignation of the government. This would inevitably lead to early elections under the existing electoral laws, but could only return the result of a grand-coalition government.

The agenda

The national agenda

The most pressing political priority that Gentiloni’s government will have to face at a national level is the approval of a new electoral law aiming to successfully balance the preferences of a highly diverse political arena.

Additionally, the new government will have to tackle other economic and social emergencies, including:

  • The severe crisis of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the third largest bank in Italy and the oldest bank in the world, which is on the verge of collapse. To prevent a major public outcry, the government is in an advanced stage of drafting a dedicated decree, which would protect retail investors from the harsh losses which risk being produced by a purely market driven ‘bail-in’ procedure.
  • A difficult reconstruction process in areas of Central Italy devastated by a series of dramatic earthquakes between August and October 2016, which caused over 300 casualties and billions of euros of damages.

The international agenda

At international level, the Government's priority will be the on-going negotiations with the European Union on Italy’s 2017 budget. The European Commission is expected to give its final assessment at the beginning of next year, but some requests for corrections are to be expected.

Additionally, Italy will host two highly significant international events in the first six months of 2017: the celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established what is today known as the European Union, in March 2017, and the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, in late May 2017. These two high-level meetings were strongly promoted by Matteo Renzi as part of his international agenda to foster Italy’s role at international level, but they now risk becoming a major stage for Italy’s political turmoil to be displayed.

Finally, in 2017 Italy will start its one-year membership to the UN Security Council, which was one of the main achievements of Paolo Gentiloni when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Cabinet

Ministers confirmed in their previous position

  • Piercarlo Padoan, Minister of Economy
  • Carlo Calenda, Minister of Economic Development
  • Beatrice Lorenzin, Minister of Health
  • Giuliano Poletti, Minister of Labour
  • Andrea Orlando, Minister of Justice
  • Dario Franceschini, Minister of Culture
  • Marianna Madia, Minister for Public Administration
  • Roberta Pinotti, Minister of Defense
  • Graziano Delrio, Minister of Infrastructures
  • Maurizio Martina, Minister of Agriculture
  • Gian Luca Galletti, Minister of Environment
  • Enrico Costa, Minister for Regional Affairs 

Former Ministers appointed in a new role

  • Angelino Alfano, Minister of Foreign Affairs (former Minister of Internal Affairs)
  • Maria Elena Boschi, Undersecretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (former Minister of Reforms, main proponent of the constitutional reforms rejected by the referendum and staunch ally of former PM Renzi)
  • Claudio De Vincenti, Minister for the South of Italy (former Undersecretary at the Prime Minister Office)
  • Luca Lotti, Minister for Sport and publishing (former Undersecretary at the Prime Minister Office and very close ally of former PM Renzi)
  • Marco Minniti, Minister for Internal Affairs (former Undersecretary at the Prime Minister Office, with the key mandate to oversee the secret service agencies)

The new entries

  • Anna Finocchiaro, Minister for the Parliamentary Relations
  • Valeria Fedeli, Minister of Education
Download a PDF of this report here: Paolo Gentiloni is the new Italian Prime Minister
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Paolo Compostella

Paolo Compostella, managing director of APCO Worldwide's Rome office, advises clients on public affairs and strategic communication. Read More

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Matteo Martone

Matteo Martone is a consultant in APCO Worldwide's Rome office. Mr. Martone has a Master in Corporate Communication and Public Affairs from the Business School of Sole 24 Ore Read More