Prodi and his ministers are sworn in

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The Independent Online

Romano Prodi became Italy's new Prime Minister again yesterday, 10 years to the day since being sworn in the first time.

"It is a pretty remarkable fact," Mr Prodi remarked of the coincidence of dates, "Many things have happened [in those years] but what remains is a powerful desire and effort for renewal." He stood beaming under the vast chandeliers of the Quirinale, the presidential palace, as Italy's new head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, swore his ministers in.

Mr Prodi, a former economics professor who also served as president of the European Commission, heads a government which includes two other former prime ministers: Massimo D'Alema, the post-Communist who takes foreign affairs, and Giuliano Amato, Interior Minister. It includes six women ministers, a record for Italy.

The ceremony came after days of negotiations as Mr Prodi attempted to satisfy his vastly diverse coalition, which includes reformed and unreformed Communists, Christian Democrats, and the anti-clerical, anti-Communist "radicals" of the Rose in the Fist party.

"It's a solid line-up," said James Walston, professor of political science at the American University in Rome. "Prodi has done what governments have to do, giving power to people who have to have it while trying to get your policies through. In Lyndon Johnson's phrase, you need to have people inside the tent pissing out, not the other way around."

The key appointment was making Fausto Bertinotti, the unreformed Communist leader, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, one of the four highest positions in the state: it was Mr Bertinotti who brought his government down in 1998.