Nine weeks after parliamentary elections, Italy finally swore in its new government on Sunday, with Prime Minister Enrico Letta of the center-left Democratic Party at its helm, and a record number of women and the first non-white minister at the oars.
To be fair, nine weeks in Italian Political Time is practically instantaneous.
The appointment of mostly new and young faces to prominent positions could be a nod on Letta’s part to the populist Five Star Movement, a "party" started by Italian comedian Beppe Grillo that has defied all definition and gestures of cooperation extended by other political parties, despite winning 25.5 percent of the popular vote.
The government will face its first vote of confidence, required by the Constitution in order to begin operating, on Monday.
Italian markets rallied moderately following the announcement that the government had been formed: The Milan stock market traded up 1.5 percent, and ten-year bond yields dropped below 4 percent for the first time since 2010.
A positive day for Italian politics, marking the end of more than two months of gridlock, was marred, when an unemployed man named Luigi Preiti, from the southern Calabria region of Italy, shot two Carabinieri police officers and one bystander on Sunday outside Chigi Palace, the Prime Minister's official residence, as Letta and his cabinet were being sworn in. One officer was seriously hurt in the spinal column, and is still in the hospital. The other two sustained less serious injuries. Newly sworn-in Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri called the shooter, who was promptly detained and is now under arrest, “unbalanced” and said there was no suspicion of terrorist motives. Cancellieri, by the way, was Interior Minister under the previous government.
Speaking of women in the government, this cabinet features an unprecedented four female ministers, and not all of them are former Prime Minister and self-declared party animal Silvio Berlusconi’s former girlfriends. Emma Bonino, former European affairs minister under the Romano Prodi government from 2006 to 2008, will be Italy’s first female foreign minister.
Cécile Kyenge, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Italy’s first black government minister, will serve as minister of integration, a new cabinet position aimed at fostering integration for Italy’s disadvantaged population. Kyenge being African-Italian, she has naturally already sustained some slurs against her from the right-wing, anti-immigration Northern League party. League Secretary Matteo Salvini called her, in a tweet, “the symbol of a hypocritical, do-gooding left that would like to abolish the crime of illegal immigration and only thinks about immigrants' rights and not their duties."
Meanwhile, Josefa Idem a blonde, German-born Italian who also happens to be an Olympian sprint canoeist with white skin, who is the new Minister of Equal Opportunities and Sports, has not attracted the Northern League’s attention, the Guardian pointed out.
Other appointed ministers include Fabrizio Saccomanni as economy minister. Saccomanni is a former director general of the Bank of Italy under Mario Draghi, the current head of the European Central Bank. Saccomanni has heretofore never declared a firm political position, Reuters reported.
Angelino Alfano, a protégé of Berlusconi, will be deputy prime minister and Berlusconi’s man-on-the-inside while Berlusconi continues to battle various prosecutions and sex scandals.
Enrico Giovannini, current director of the national statistics agency, will serve as Labor Minister. Mario Mauro, formerly of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party before joining Mario Monti’s centrist Civic Choice party, will be defense minister.