Ex-Communists join Italy's reform government: The non-political Prime Minister puts together a mould-breaking cabinet

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FOR THE first time in 46 years, members of the former Communist Party are included in an Italian government. Three members of what is now the Party of the Democratic Left (PDS) and one sympathiser were among the 25 ministers in the mould- breaking reform government announced last night by the new non- political Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Governor of the Bank of Italy.

The presence of its members appears likely to guarantee the support of the PDS for the new government whose top priorities are reform of the electoral laws along majority lines, as indicated by the results of the recent referendum, and the relaunching of the economy. The party, however, has said it will wait to see the whole cabinet list and the government's programme before committing itself. 'We have no wish to bring the Ciampi cabinet down,' the PDS leader Achille Occhetto said earlier yesterday.

The list announced by Mr Ciampi was a mix of old faces from the previous government, new ones, non-parliamentarians and several technicians - or more precisely eminent economists - in key posts. The five 'establishment' parties who shared power since the war, the Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals, Republicans and Social Democrats, were included and, for the first time, the Greens. The one significant party not included was the Northern League, whose leader, Umberto Bossi, had declared earlier in the day that they were 'the real enemy' of the government. 'Ciampi is the regime and we are anti-regime' he said, implying that Mr Ciampi was effectively a continuation of the old discredited party system.

There were strong signs that the inclusion of the former Communists was very much a last-minute affair.

Yesterday afternoon, the second day of Mr Ciampi's work on his cabinet, members of the reformist camp pointed out that the list was heavily weighted in favour of the Christian Democrats and Socialists and looked too much another edition of what had gone before. The fact that his formal presentation of the list to President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro took place one- and-three-quarter hours later than scheduled indicated that much last- minute juggling had been going on.

Nevertheless Mr Ciampi, the first non-political prime minister in post- war history, only narrowly missed making an all-time record. He put together his government in 52 hours, faster than any Italian prime minister to date except for one who did it in 48 hours.

But an even more important piece of history was the inclusion of the former Communists. Communists had taken part in Italy's first post-war governments but were dropped by the Christian Democrat prime minister Alcide de Gasperi in 1947. The Cold War and the concern to prevent them from ever gaining power in Italy was at the root of the political paralysis which eventually bred the corruption and misgovernment that brought on the current democratic revolution.

The three are Augusto Barbera, the PDS regional expert and a leading member with Mario Segni of the victorious referendum campaign for electoral reform. He is minister without portfolio for relations with parliament. Vincenzo Visco, the party's shadow economics minister, is Finance Minister and Luigi Berlinguer, president of the University of Siena and a cousin of the late Communist Party leader Enrico Berlinguer, is Minister for the Universities and Scientific Research.

Luigi Spaventa, an eminent economist regarded as close to the party, is Minister for Budget and Economic Planning. He and Mr Visco, with Piero Barucci, who remains at the Treasury, will make up the 'troika' of ministers who will have the task of putting the Italian economy back on its feet. Beniamino Andreatta, a leading Christian Democrat economist, who had been tipped for one of the big economic posts, was made Foreign Minister after Giuliano Amato, the outgoing prime minister, declined the job.

Italy's new cabinet

Prime Minister: Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, unaffiliated; Cabinet Secretary: Antonio Maccanico, Republicans (PRI); Ministers - Agriculture: Alfredo Diana, Christian Democrats (DC); Budget and Planning: Luigi Spaventa, unaffiliated; Cultural heritage: Alberto Ronchey, unaffiliated; Defence: Fabio Fabbri, Socialists (PSI); Relations with parliament: Augusto Barbera, Democrats, (PDS); Electoral reform: Leopoldo Elia, DC; EC and regional affairs: Valdo Spini, PSI; Education: Rosa Russo Jervolino, DC; Environment: Francesco Rutelli, Greens; Finance: Vincenzo Visco, PDS; Foreign affairs: Beniamino Andreatta, DC; Health: Maria Pia Garavaglia, DC; Industry and Privatisation: Paolo Savona, PRI; Interior: Nicola Mancino, DC; Justice: Giovanni Conso, Unaffiliated; Labour: Gino Giugni, PSI; Overseas Trade: Paolo Baratta, PSI; Post and Communications: Maurizio Pagani, PSDI; Public Works: Francesco Merloni, DC; Social Affairs: Fernanda Contri, PSI; Transport: Rafaele Costa, Liberals; Treasury: Piero Barrucci, DC; Universities and Research: Luigi Berlinguer, PDS; Civil Service: Sabino Cassese, unaffiliated.