ROME (AP) — Center-left leader Enrico Letta forged a new Italian government Saturday in a coalition with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives, an unusual alliance of bitter rivals that broke a two-month political stalemate from inconclusive elections in the recession-mired country.
The daunting achievement was pulled off by Letta, who will be sworn in as premier along with the new Cabinet at the presidential Quirinal Palace on Sunday.
Letta, 46, is a moderate with a reputation as a political bridge-builder. He is also the nephew Berlusconi's longtime adviser, Gianni Letta, a relationship seen as smoothing over often nasty interaction between the two main coalition partners.
Serving as deputy premier and interior minister will be Berlusconi's top political aide, Angelino Alfano. He is a former justice minister who was the architect of legislation that critics say was tailor-made to help media mogul Berlusconi in his many judicial woes.
The creation of the coalition capped the latest political comeback for Berlusconi, a former three-time premier who was forced to resign in 2011 as Italy slid deeper in to the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis.
On Monday, Letta is expected to lay out his strategy to Parliament, before required confidence votes from the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
"We negotiated for the formation of the government without throwing up any stop signs," Berlusconi told one of his TV networks. "That's how we contributed to forming a government in short time" after Letta was tapped Wednesday.
Berlusconi, a fervent anti-Communist, views Italy's left as a personal nemesis, and Letta's Democratic Party has some of its roots in what was the West's largest Communist Party.
Letta expressed "sober satisfaction over the team we put together and its willingness" to form a coalition.
Although Letta strove to fill his Cabinet with new faces, a longtime Italian central bank official, Fabrizio Saccomanni, who also served a stint at the International Monetary Fund, was chosen for the key economy ministry portfolio.
In the role, Saccomanni will have to balance European Union insistence on rigorous austerity to heal Italy's finances with politicians' sensitivities to voters. The public's patience has been tried by spending cuts and higher taxes without seeing the start of any economic revival.
Only a few weeks earlier, the head of the Democrats, Pier Luigi Bersani, resigned from the party post in humiliation and he refused Berlusconi's offer for a "grand coalition" and futilely tried to form a government without the center-right. Letta was a Bersani loyalist.
Bersani hailed the coalition formula as a "necessary compromise" that gives the country "freshness and solidarity."
The No. 3 bloc in Parliament, the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, is led by comic Beppe Grillo, who ruled out any alliance with the largely sullied political class that has ruled Italy for decades.
President Giorgio Napolitano, who tasked Letta with creating a government out of bitter rivals, called upon the coalition partners to work "in a spirit of absolute, indispensable cohesion" as they work for sorely needed political and economic reforms.
The 87-year-old head of state sounded almost breathless as he expressed confidence the rivals could work together "without conflict or prejudices to find the right solutions" to the country's pressing economic and political problems.
Napolitano didn't name the challenges, but they include fighting unemployment, especially for young people, and corruption sullying much of the political class.
Continue reading this story on the...