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Italy president taps Gentiloni, favourite to be Prime Minister

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Italy's Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni speaks during a joint press conference with Russia's counterpart Sergei Lavrov on December 2, 2016 in Rome. Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni speaks during a joint press conference with Russia’s counterpart Sergei Lavrov on December 2, 2016 in Rome.<br />Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italian President Sergio Mattarella summoned Paolo Gentiloni to see him Sunday in what was seen as a signal the current foreign minister will become the country’s new prime minister.

Gentiloni is the favourite to replace outgoing premier Matteo Renzi, who resigned last week after suffering a crushing defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform.

“The President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, has summoned the honourable Paolo Gentiloni to the Quirinale Palace at 12.30 today,” a statement from the presidency said.

Mattarella vowed on Saturday evening to move swiftly to appoint a new premier, saying the country urgently needed a “fully functioning government” to handle a string of pressing problems.

Chief among those is a looming crisis in the troubled banking sector and ongoing relief efforts for citizens affected by a series of deadly earthquakes between August and October.

Gentiloni, 62, is a close ally of Renzi and will be seen by the opposition as a puppet premier keeping the seat warm for his Democratic Party (PD) colleague, who is planning a comeback at the next election.

An election is due by February 2018 but could take place up to a year early.

Mattarella, who enjoys extensive executive powers during government crises such as this one, said Saturday that there could not be an election until the rules for it were revised.

Theoretically, that could happen quickly but could also drag on for months.



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