EXPLAINER: Rituals play role in creating Italian government

Oct 12, 2022, 11:56 AM | Updated: Oct 13, 2022, 6:07 am
FILE - A view of the hemicycle inside Italy's Lower Chamber Montecitorio Palace, in Rome, Wednesday...

FILE - A view of the hemicycle inside Italy's Lower Chamber Montecitorio Palace, in Rome, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

              FILE - Italy's Premier Mario Draghi addresses the Senate in Rome Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, before submitting his government to a vote of confidence. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (Yara Nardi/Pool via AP, File)
            
              FILE - New Italian Premier Mario Draghi presides over his first cabinet of ministers reunion after the swearing-in ceremony, at Chigi Palace Premier's office, in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Ministers of the new Italian government pose for the official photo during a swearing-in ceremony at the Quirinale Presidential Palace, in Rome, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - Italian outgoing Premier Enrico Letta, left, hands over the cabinet minister bell to new Premier Matteo Renzi during the handover ceremony at Chigi Palace Premier's office, in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)
            
              FILE - Ministers of the new Italian government pose for the official photo during a swearing-in ceremony at the Quirinale Presidential Palace, in Rome, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - From left, Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) party's spokesman Guido Crosetto and lawmakers Giorgia Meloni and Ignazio La Russa meet journalists after talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, at the Quirinale presidential palace, in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)
            
              FILE - Presidential guards wait for Giuseppe Conte to arrive and brief the media after meeting with Italian president Sergio Mattarella, at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome, Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)
            
              FILE - An unidentified lawmaker casts his ballot during the fifth round of voting to elect a new Italian head of state, at the Lower Chamber, in Rome Saturday, April 20, 2013. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
            
              FILE - Brothers of Italy's Giorgia Meloni walks out of the ballot box to cast her vote to elect the Lower Chamber president during the first session of parliament at the Lower Chamber, in Rome, Friday, March 23, 2018. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
            
              FILE - A view of the hemicycle inside Italy's Lower Chamber Montecitorio Palace, in Rome, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. Forming a new government in Italy involves time and decades-old rituals, so although far-right leader Giorgia Meloni emerged as the clear winner in elections last month, the process of getting a new ruling coalition up and running will take time, maybe weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

ROME (AP) — With its dozens of “revolving door” governments, Italy might give the impression that carving out new ruling coalitions is quick work. But the process can take weeks, even months.

On Thursday, when newly elected lawmakers took their seats, the work of giving the country a new government formally began.

Giorgia Meloni, who scored a solid victory in the Sept. 25 election, is well-positioned to become the first far-right leader of an Italian government since the end of World War II and the first female premier. A number of rituals must happen first though.

GETTING SEATED IN PARLIAMENT

Italy’s governments require the backing of Parliament. Before a new ruling coalition can be formed, newly elected lawmakers must take their seats in the legislature within 20 days of an election. On Thursday, both the Senate, Parliament’s upper chamber, and the lower Chamber of Deputies, will hold their first session since the election.

This time, there will be fewer lawmakers. Under a reform to streamline the legislature and reduce spending, the new Senate now has 200 members, down from 315, and the Chamber of Deputies has 400 instead of 630. Their main order of business is electing each chamber’s president.

On Thursday, Ignazio La Russa of Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party was elected Senate president; the chamber president is expected to be elected by Friday.

MAKING THE ROUNDS

After parliamentary elections, Italy’s president, as head of state, has to task someone with trying to cobble together a government — formally called “conferring a mandate.”

The clear winner of last month’s election was the far-right Brothers of Italy leader Meloni.

With her main coalition partners – Matteo Salvini’s League and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia — Meloni should be able to command a comfortable majority in Parliament.

But before President Sergio Mattarella asks Meloni to see if she can assemble a viable coalition, he is expected — but not obliged — to hold a round of consultations with party leaders, including from the potential opposition. Those huddles could take two or three days.

“WITH RESERVATION”

Barring surprises, the presidential Quirinal Palace will announce that Meloni has accepted “with reservation” the task of trying to create a new government. But that doesn’t mean she has any doubts she’ll succeed — it’s a customary phrase.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Once tapped, Meloni and her allied leaders will confer — separately or together — on how to divvy up Cabinet posts. That’s where it can get sticky, as each party jockeys for the most high-profile ministries.

Since Meloni’s party won a bigger share of the votes than Salvini’s and Berlusconi’s forces put together, her campaign allies will have somewhat limited bargaining power.

Tensions were already apparent on Thursday during the election for Senate president: Most Forza Italia senators didn’t cast votes, depriving Meloni’s candidate, La Russa, of a wide margin of victory. The opposition reveled in their rivals’ apparent lack of cohesion.

REPORT TIME

Once Meloni is confident that she has nailed down a solid Cabinet that will pass Mattarella’s muster, she’ll meet with him to present her list of ministers.

Any disagreement over names is usually dealt with outside of the public eye. But after the 2018 election, Mattarella vetoed the pick of a euroskeptic economist for finance minister. That veto angered the coalition’s populist leaders, but ultimately forced selection of another minister acceptable to the president.

UNVEILING

Should Meloni succeed in forming a Cabinet, as journalists wait in the hilltop Quirinal Palace and a pair of helmeted Corazzieri Carabinieri stand guard, the palace secretary general will emerge and announce that the political leader has “dissolved the reservation” — a formulaic way of saying she has formed a government. Generally, the premier-to-be then makes a brief statement and reads out the names of the Cabinet ministers.

IT’S OFFICIAL

Then it’s back to the Quirinal Palace — usually the next day — for the new government’s swearing-in ceremony. The new premier and each minister pledge to be faithful to the republic, to loyally observe its constitution and laws and to exercise their powers “in the exclusive interest of the nation.”

PASS THAT BELL

After the oath-taking, the new premier heads a few blocks away to Chigi Palace, the premier’s office, for an official photo. The outgoing premier hands the incoming one the bell used to open Cabinet meetings.

Usually they smile for the photo. But in 2014, as he handed over the bell, outgoing Premier Enrico Letta refused to smile or even look at newly-minted Premier Matteo Renzi, who had ousted him from office through backroom party maneuvers.

FULL POWERS

Italy’s constitution requires all new governments to face a confidence vote in each chamber of Parliament within 10 days of the Cabinet’s formation. Only then is the government considered to be fully in power.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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EXPLAINER: Rituals play role in creating Italian government