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<i> Deja Vu </i> Technocrat Government Takes Charge in Italy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A deja vu government of technocrats won an establishing vote of confidence in Parliament on Wednesday, simultaneously underlining Italy’s thirst for reform and its inability to achieve it.

Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, a 63-year-old former central banker, easily won backing in the Chamber of Deputies for his nonpartisan government of economists, executives, lawyers and academics. It is Italy’s 54th government since World War II.

Despite a last-minute appeal, though, Dini failed to win the support of right-wing parties led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in whose government he had served as Treasury minister.

With Berlusconi and his allies abstaining, Dini was confirmed in office mostly by centrist and leftist parties by a vote of 302 to 39, with 270 abstentions. A Senate vote next week also should go Dini’s way, Italian analysts say.

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After prolonged and bitter political debate, Dini emerged as the compromise choice of President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro to replace Berlusconi, who was forced to resign Dec. 22 after one of his coalition partners bolted--the federalist Northern League, whose mainstream supported Dini in Wednesday’s vote.

Berlusconi demanded immediate elections, but Scalfaro demurred.

Now Berlusconi and his neo-fascist allies are demanding a firm date for early elections. Dini’s refusal to set a precise timetable for his government’s duration provoked their abstention.

Dini’s government of experts parallels the one led by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, another state banker, before elections last March won by political rookie Berlusconi, a Milan media tycoon who is one of Europe’s richest men.

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Berlusconi’s right-wing government was supposed to represent a new political era, rising as it did from the ashes of a corruption scandal that tarnished all the old-line political parties that were pillars of postwar coalitions.

The billionaire pledged electoral reform, more privatization, federalist laws, antitrust legislation, control of Italy’s huge government deficit and a million new jobs.

Now, Dini is promising some of the same reforms, many of which were also priorities of Ciampi, and also eluded partisan governments before that. Appealing for Berlusconi’s support in debate before Wednesday’s vote, Dini pledged overhaul for the bloated pension system and warned of possible new taxes to reduce the state deficit.

A free-market economist whose austerity budget for Berlusconi triggered massive labor protest, Dini says his government will resign as soon as the reforms are in place or if Parliament refuses to enact them.

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