|Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (l) and Silvio Berlusconi|
The Italian president has asked Silvio Berlusconi to form a new government, two days after Mr. Berlusconi stepped down as prime minister in the wake of a crushing defeat in regional elections. The decision followed consultations by the president with the country's political leaders.
Silvio Berlusconi is set to form Italy's 60th post-war government. He received the mandate from the Italian president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who has been holding consultations with the leaders of Italy's political parties since Mr. Berlusconi stepped down on Wednesday.
In a short statement after his afternoon meeting with the head of state, Mr. Berlusconi said he was given the mandate to form the new government. The decision had been expected after Mr. Berlusconi's allies expressed their support.
The twice prime minister said the entire government would be at work within a few days to realize the new objectives that the center-right coalition has identified.
Mr. Berlusconi is expected to present his line-up to President Ciampi on Saturday. The ministers will then need to be sworn in. Mr. Berlusconi also said he expected to go to parliament for a confidence vote by next week.
Mr. Berlusconi said the focus of the coalition's activity would be the revival of businesses, the defense of the purchasing power of families and a plan of action for the south with the creation of new jobs.
Mr. Berlusconi announced his resignation in the lower house of parliament Wednesday, saying he intended to form a new government to strengthen the center-right coalition.
His resignation followed a stinging defeat in regional elections at the beginning of April that prompted his allies to urge him to step down and form a re-shuffled cabinet. Mr. Berlusconi initially resisted but soon realized he had no other option.
The center-left has voiced its disapproval of the formation of a new government by Mr. Berlusconi, saying it will be nothing but a photocopy of the previous cabinet.
Opposition member Enrico Boselli says he feels the new government is going to be much weaker than the one before but will have to face greater problems. He described it as a desperate challenge.
The center-left has been calling for early general elections, saying the citizens have a right to choose a strong government to lead the country, not one that no longer has the consensus that it needs.