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Silvio Berlusconi Sworn in as Italy's Prime Minister for Third Time

Silvio Berlusconi has been sworn in as prime minister of Italy for the third time in his political career, after emerging as the clear winner in last month's early general elections. Sabina Castelfranco has this report for VOA from Rome.

Mr. Berlusconi was the first to swear loyalty to the Italian republic, constitution and laws. His 21-member cabinet, which includes four women, followed. All of them signed the oath before the Italian head of state at the presidential palace.

The 71-year-old media magnate and his Conservatives emerged as strong winners in April's early general elections. They obtained a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament where the government, Italy's 62nd since the end of World War II, will face confidence votes, the first next Wednesday in the lower house.

The new prime ministeri has warned Italians that they face tough years ahead and that he will have to carry out unpopular reforms.

Many Italian voters say they are disillusioned with the entire political class, but are hopeful that this time something may change.

This man has a job with the state and he says he voted for Mr. Berlusconi.

He says "there is no question that this is a government that will last. Mr. Berlusconi," he says, presented his cabinet line-up in no time compared to other governments and everything is in place for him to do well."

Others, like a woman taxi driver in Rome, say all politicians are corrupt and is unsure whether there will be any change at all.

She says "we only voted for him because he was the alternative to the one before. But, we cannot say that he will be any better because it is too early."

One thing most people agree on is that this government should be able to last the full five years.

A young bartender said that seeing the majority that the Conservatives managed to obtain, the government should last.

He says "Mr. Berlusconi will be able to govern without having to make so many compromises, even if some segments of the population will not agree with everything he does."

The new government faces a number of challenges. Mr. Berlusconi has said he has 100 days to avoid disappointing those who have put their faith in him and five years to change and modernize this country.

Italians say the most urgent needs are ensuring that everyone has a job and a home, and then salaries need to be raised.

This state employee outlined the issues that he believes need to be dealt with immediately.

Security, he says, because every citizen is sensitive to this problem and then salaries because many cannot reach the end of the month. The general situation in the country, which is not good, he adds, needs to be addressed and then infrastructures, because Italy is 30 years behind other European countries.

Mr. Berlusconi has pledged to fight crime, crack down on illegal immigration, and clear the piles of rubbish in Naples that have paralyzed the southern city and threaten Italy's tourism industry.