Il Presidente e il Professore

The President is 85 year old Giorgio Napolitano, former Communist, whose election 5 years ago was commented upon by dotCommonweal here. The Professor is the formal and formidable Mario Monti who took on and defeated G.E. and Microsoft while head of the European Union's Commission on Competition.Today's Times gives the latest in Italy's ongoing struggle with "La Forza del Destino."

President Giorgio Napolitano, who as the head of state must approve the formation of a new government, gave a tough speech on Sunday aimed at reassuring investors about Italys commitment to the euro and warning the nations insular political class about the stakes involved. He called on lawmakers to form a broad coalition in support of Mr. Monti that would be able to push through urgent economic measures.News media reports said that Mr. Monti initially sought to include figures from the major parties in his cabinet in an effort to share the political cost of the governments program, including unpopular austerity measures. But while most major parties were prepared to back his government, few were willing to join it. The new cabinet is now expected to consist mainly of technical experts rather than politicians.Mr. Napolitano, who met with leaders from across the political spectrum on Sunday to gather pledges of support, said in his speech that it is a responsibility we perceive from the entire international community to protect the stability of the single currency as well as the European frame work. He added that Italy understood how its actions would affect the prospects for the recovery of the world economy.

Another helpful article in today's Times makes clear that the opera's last act may still prove to be a rocky one:

It remains to be seen, however, whether Mr. Monti who has no hands-on political experience at home can convince financial markets that he can overcome Italys snarled domestic politics and implement the cost-saving measures that Italy has promised to whittle down a mountain of debt and boost growth.Mr. Monti brings credibility and legitimacy, but also the notion that if he fails and his efforts fail, everyone will be worse off, said Moiss Nam, a senior associate in the international economics program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, who knows Mr. Monti. The bottom line is that Italians have lost their alibi once Berlusconi is gone and the hard work starts; there are no excuses any more.

Through all the drama, that has oscillated between tragedy and farce, President Napolitano has been a singular voice of propriety, civility, and competence. He has been rightly celebrated by the editors of Rome's left-leaning daily, La Repubblica, whose esteem for Napolitano is matched only by their disdain from Berlusconi. Commenting on yesterday's mandate to form a new government, given by the President to the Professor, the newspaper's editorial said it was marked by: "la convinzione che l'Italia possa farcela." I suppose the rough translation is "yes, we can!" Speriamo bene!

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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