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Italy's Renzi seen close to naming new cabinet

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[February 21, 2014]  By Massimiliano Di Giorgio and Stefano Bernabei

ROME (Reuters)  Italian center-left leader Matteo Renzi is close to naming the members of his government, with OECD Chief Economist Pier Carlo Padoan likely to be named to the economy ministry portfolio, three sources close to the negotiations said on Friday.

Renzi is expected to meet President Giorgio Napolitano at 4 p.m. (1000 ET) on Friday to confirm his cabinet list, allowing the government to be sworn in by the weekend, ahead of a confidence vote in parliament expected on Monday.

Three separate sources said that Padoan, who has been at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development since 2007, was expected to be named to the key economy minister post.

Speculation about the make-up of the cabinet has focused particularly on who will be economy minister, the point person with the European Central Bank and European Union partners and an important factor in maintaining foreign investor confidence.

Renzi, who forced out his party rival Enrico Letta last week after attacking the slow pace of economic reforms, is expected to govern with the same cross-party alliance as his predecessor but has not yet sealed a formal coalition accord.


He has sketched out an ambitious agenda, promising to tackle electoral and constitutional reform, make the labor market and tax systems more efficient and overhaul the bloated public administration all within four months.

However, as well as having to deal with the same unwieldy coalition which hampered Letta, he will also face questions about how he gained office, which could limit his ability to push through unpopular reform measures.

At 39, he would be Italy's youngest-ever prime minister, but he would also be the third in a row to gain office without winning an election, and opinion polls suggest many Italians are concerned about the lack of a mandate from voters.

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A poll on Friday by the SWG polling institute posted a dip in support for the PD, to 29.9 percent from 32.2 percent a week earlier, while support for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia rose to 21.8 percent from 20 percent.

The survey showed 27 percent saw Renzi as a leader capable of giving a future to Italy, more than any other potential rival on the list but still outscored by the 30 percent who picked "none".

Much of the past week has been spent in consultations with other parties, in particular the small center-right NCD party whose support he will need for a majority in parliament.

A source in the PD said Renzi had met NCD leader Angelino Alfano overnight and appeared to have agreed on the future role for Alfano, who served as deputy prime minister and interior minister under Letta.

The source said Alfano would give up his position as deputy prime minister but would remain at the interior ministry.

(Writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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