Ciampi's blueprint for reform

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ROME - The Italian Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, asked parliament yesterday for a vote of 'moral confidence' in his transitional government, promising to have electoral reforms passed before summer and to continue sorting out the country's finances, writes Patricia Clough.

He warned that more sacrifices were to come: 'One year is not enough to pay the bill for two decades.' But he promised laws to restore morality to public life after the corruption scandals, to expedite the privatisation of state industries, and to speed up the justice system.

Mr Ciampi, Governor of the Bank of Italy until last week, has put together a cabinet composed overwhelmingly of non-political experts, although the 36 under-secretaries appointed on Wednesday are all from the main political parties. The reaction of the establishment parties was positive, while the opposition Northern League changed tack and said it would abstain. The former Communists also appear likely to abstain.

Politically, the key point in Mr Ciampi's speech was electoral reform, which he insisted yet again was the government's 'absolute priority'. He announced that the government would abandon its traditional neutrality on the issue and present a reform bill of its own, giving the Chamber of Deputies the same system as the Senate has had since last month's referendum: three-quarters of the members to be elected by a first-past- the-post majority system, one-quarter on a proportional basis.

(Photograph omitted)