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Prodi Gets Nod to Form Italy's New Government

Italy's newly installed president Giorgio Napolitano Tuesday evening asked Romano Prodi to form the country's new government. Romano Prodi, the center-left coalition leader and winner of last month's election, received the mandate after new president ended consultations with party leaders.

General elections in Italy were held April 9 and 10, but things have not gone smoothly. First, outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to concede defeat; then a new head of state had to be elected; finally on Tuesday the winner of the elections, center-left coalition leader Romano Prodi, received a much-awaited mandate to form a government.

Italy's head of state Giorgio Napolitano, who was sworn in Monday, gave Mr. Prodi the mandate at the end of consultations with party leaders and former presidents. The prime minister-designate said he hoped to have his cabinet formed by Wednesday.

"We will act to form a balanced and solid government, able to deal with the country's political and economic problems," Mr. Prodi said.

For days Mr. Prodi has been holding meetings with members of his coalition, which ranges from Catholic moderates to hard-core communists, to find an agreement on cabinet posts that would satisfy all.

The varied coalition and Mr. Prodi's tiny two-seat majority in the Senate have raised doubts that he will be able to remain in power for long. His government will follow Silvio Berlusconi's five-year leadership, which was the longest in postwar Italy.

President Napolitano said no one in Mr. Berlusconi's coalition had contested that Mr. Prodi should be named prime minister. But the outgoing prime minister has said he wants parliament to launch an investigation into ballots cast by Italians abroad, and other irregularities.

In his final press conference as prime minister, Mr. Berlusconi said there were many irregularities, many anomalies that we want cleared up.

He also vowed to lead a responsible but strong opposition to represent that half of Italy that voted for his center-right coalition. "Our opposition," he said, "will not be blind to the country's interests."

Once the new cabinet list is ready it needs to be approved by the president. Then the new prime minister will be sworn in. He must then win a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament.