ROME -- Matteo Renzi, 39, was sworn in as Italy’s youngest ever prime minister Saturday alongside the most youthful Cabinet of ministers ever to govern Italy, half of whom are women.
Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, has no political experience on the national stage, but has promised to rapidly tackle the stagnant bureaucracy, heavy tax burden and chronic unemployment that plagues the Eurozone’s third-largest economy.
Amid doubts over the reliability of his backing in parliament, Renzi must also prove himself to voters unhappy with the way he unseated former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, in a power struggle within the center-left Democratic Party.
Renzi becomes the third Italian prime minister to take power without being elected, following Letta and Mario Monti, who took over from Silvio Berlusconi after the media mogul resigned in 2011 at the height of the euro debt crisis.
“I am gambling with my reputation, which is more important than my career,” Renzi said Friday, adding that he was determined to stay in power until 2018.
Renzi’s 16-member Cabinet has an average age of 47 and features eight women, including Italy’s first female defense minister, Roberta Pinotti, and Marianna Madia, 33, the minister tasked with simplifying Italy's bureaucracy, who is eight months' pregnant.
On Friday, Renzi said that as a former mayor, he would bring to the government the ability to listen not only to the financial markets but also to what people were saying in local street markets.
He won plaudits for naming Pier Carlo Padoan, the respected chief economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as his finance minister.
But the makeup of the Cabinet also reflects compromises Renzi has made to attain majority support in the parliament. Three ministers hail from the small New Center Right party, including the interior minister, Angelino Alfano, which will provide Renzi with crucial backing in the Italian senate.
The fledgling party’s support was also essential to the Letta government, prompting criticism that Renzi will suffer from the same weakness in parliament his predecessor did. Alfano has already said he will oppose Renzi’s plans to promote civil unions for same-sex couples.
Renzi also chose to appoint Federica Mogherini, 40, a party colleague from his Democratic Party, as foreign minister, ousting the popular and respected Emma Bonino.
Without star names in the Cabinet, Italian media suggested the new government’s success or failure will hinge on the charisma of Renzi, the rising star of Italian politics, who has hitherto appealed both to left-wing voters and backers of former Prime Minister Berlusconi.