'I'll try to carry out the task with dignity and responsibility' - Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni to be next prime minister
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has been chosen to be the country's next prime minister and pledged to get straight to work on forming a new coalition with the same Democrat Party-led majority.
"I'm aware of the urgency to give Italy a government in the fullness of its powers, to reassure the citizens and to face with utmost commitment and determination international, economic and social priorities, starting with the reconstruction of the quake-hit areas," Mr Gentiloni, 62, said.
Fellow Democrat Matteo Renzi has been staying on in a caretaker role since he offered his resignation on December 7 after his nearly three-year-old government suffered a stinging defeat in a referendum on reforms.
The populist 5-Star Movement and other opposition forces have been clamouring for an early election, but Italian President Sergio Mattarella noted that Mr Renzi's outgoing government still commands a majority in Parliament.
On Saturday, the day before he gave Mr Gentiloni the mandate at the Quirinal presidential palace, Mr Mattarella said Italy's next government must deal with several urgent priorities, including bad loans that are burdening several Italian banks, an economy that has resisted growing for years and an ambitious construction programme for several towns destroyed by earthquakes.
The president also noted there was wide political consensus for a rapid overhaul of Italy's electoral law before Italians vote in a new election.
Mr Gentiloni said he would make the president's priorities his top concerns too, as he puts together his proposed Cabinet. He told reporters he considered Mr Mattarella's entrusting him with the task of forming a new government "a high honour, and I'll try to carry out the task with dignity and responsibility".
The 5-Star populists, who back letting Italians decide if they want to stay in the shared euro currency, want elections soon, to capitalise on the angry mood of voters who have punished ruling parties in much of Europe.