ROME (AP) — Italy's president promised Saturday he'll decide "in the next hours" about who to tap as the next premier, saying the country needs a new government as soon as possible to tackle problems, like troubled banks and quake-struck towns needing reconstruction.
Matteo Renzi has been staying on as a caretaker premier following his resignation Dec. 7 after voters rejected his government-backed reforms, ending his nearly three-year center-left coalition.
"Our country needs, in the briefest of times, a government in the fullness of its functions," Italian President Sergio Mattarella told reporters.
He was sympathetic to a chorus of calls from the populist opposition 5-Star Movement and others, including from Renzi's own Democrats, for a reform of Italy's complicated electoral laws so Italians can vote for their own leader.
Among those being touted as possible choices to lead the country are Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, a staunch Renzi supporter, and Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, an economist.
Mattarella could also ask Renzi to try to form a new government to last long enough to handle urgent priorities. Then the president could dissolve Parliament, and Italy could hold an early vote.
But Mattarella stressed any new government must oversee a reform of Italy's electoral law before a new national election is held.
He also cited concerns about the thousands left homeless by a series of quakes in central Italy this year and how reconstruction projects must move ahead.
Also looming is whether the Italian government might have to bail out the troubled Italian bank Monti dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), which direly needs to raise new capital.
The president has spent the last few days consulting with political parties before deciding upon a course of action. Emerging Saturday from her meeting with Mattarella, a 5-Star representative, Giulia Grillo, demanded an early election.
"Any other new government that comes down from on high would not have popular legitimacy" and risks imposing "the same tears-and-blood economic recipes," said Grillo, referring to tough austerity measures aiming to please European Union officials.
Giulia Grillo isn't related to Beppe Grillo, the Movement's founder.
Former center-right premier Silvio Berlusconi said Parliament should rapidly overhaul the electoral law, which nearly all political groups say needs reform, then "let Italians express themselves with their vote."
Renzi didn't join his Democrats in discussions at the presidential Quirinal palace with Mattarella. One of Democrats' delegates, Luigi Zanda, agreed with calls to make electoral reform a priority so the country can "go to a vote as soon as possible."
Frances D'Emilio is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio