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Italian new gov’t sworn in

Silvio Berlusconi’s third government was sworn in Thursday by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

The 12 ministers and nine ministers without portfolio pronounced a solemn oath on a copy of the Italian Constitution. After the ceremony, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni of the regionalist Northern League said he was “delighted to be back” and pledged “emergency measures on immigration.” Northern League leader Umberto Bossi voiced the hope that the new government would achieve the federalist reforms which the Norhern League has long been seeking. Berlusconi did not release any immediate statement.

The new cabinet met immediately in a semi-formal capacity to appoint long-time Berlusconi aide Gianni Letta as cabinet secretary. The cabinet’s first formal meeting is expected to be held on Friday or early next week in trash-hit Naples, as Berlusconi promised during the election campaign. The government will be formally seated in the Lower House on Friday afternoon. On Monday the ministers will meet again to appoint their undersecretaries. On Tuesday the government will go to the Lower House for a confidence vote, and do the same the next day in the Senate. It has comfortable majorities in both chambers.

Italy’s new government is the 66th since the fall of Fascism and the 60th since Italy was proclaimed a republic in after the war. With a total of 21 officials, the new executive has four less than the outgoing center-left government of Romano Prodi. The government is made up for the most part by members of the fledgling People of Freedom party (PDL), a union of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI) party and the right-wing National Alliance (AN). Posts were also given to the Northern League, the PDL’s main coalition ally, and the southern-based Christian democrat movement DCA, which also ran on the PDL ticket. FI has the lion’s share of posts with 12, while AN and the Northern League each have four and the DCA one. The average age of the ministers is 50. (