ROME (AP) — Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni was tapped Sunday to form a new, Democrat-led government and end a political crisis so the country can quickly tackle pressing problems, which include troubled banks, an economy resisting growth and an electoral reform aimed at finally making the nation more governable.
"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," the 62-year-old Gentiloni said.
Italy is due to participate in a European Council meeting on Thursday in Brussels, where participants are expected to discuss key problems including migration, security and how to deal with Britain's decision to quit the European Union.
If no snags develop, Gentiloni could be sworn in as premier early this week. He declined to make predictions, saying only: "We're getting down to work."
Gentiloni would take the place of fellow Democrat Matteo Renzi in the premiership. Renzi has been acting in a caretaker role as premier since he quit on Dec. 7 after his nearly three-year-old government suffered a stinging defeat in a referendum on reforms he had staked his job on.
A new government faces a mandatory confidence vote in Parliament.
Given the banking crisis, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan is widely expected to stay on.
The populist 5-Star Movement and other opposition forces have been clamoring for an early election. But Mattarella, in weighing who should replace Renzi, pointed out the center-left government still commands a majority in Parliament.
"The people feel as if they've been taken for a ride, and want to vote who will decide their lives," said a 5-Star lawmaker, Laura Castelli in a Facebook post that promoted the Movement's "elections immediately" hashtag.
Renzi became Italy's youngest-ever premier in February 2014 when he was 39. He still leads the Democratic Party, although faces internal party challenges should he bid for a return to the premiership when elections are eventually scheduled.
During his party leadership, Renzi, who leans toward the political center, saw defections, especially from Democrats with a past in the former Communist Party.
One defector, Stefano Fassina, of the small Democratic Left party, labeled the next government a "Renzi-encore" and pushed for "elections as soon as possible."
Mattarella has urged the next government to act on several urgent priorities. Those include a banking crisis stemming from badly performing loans amid an economy which resisted growing for several years, despite labor reforms and tax breaks during the Renzi administration.
Gentiloni also noted the pressing need for ambitious construction for several towns destroyed in recent months by earthquakes in central Italy.
The quake-struck area was rattled anew Sunday with a 4.3 quake. Reconstruction following quakes in decades past has been ripe for corruption.
As foreign minister, Gentiloni lobbied for international support to help end years of violence and fighting in Libya. The North Africa nation's lawless coast has turned into a vast launching pad for lucrative people smuggling, which sends hundreds of thousands of migrants out in unseaworthy boats toward Italian shores.
Gentiloni also spearheaded Italy's demands that the Egyptian government determine and bring to justice who tortured and killed a young Italian researcher in Cairo this year.
The premier-designate is considered a staunch supporter of the outgoing Renzi.
But Renzi took Gentiloni to task earlier this fall, expressing displeasure that his foreign minister had abstained on a resolution of UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, instead of opposing it. The resolution angered Israel with its wording that put the Western Wall in Jerusalem — Judaism's holiest site — in quotation marks and described other Jewish sites as "so-called."
Frances D'Emilio is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio