Carlo Cottarelli has been asked to become Italy’s new prime minister and lead a technocratic government amid a fresh political crisis – but what do we know about him?
Who is Carlo Cottarelli?
The 64-year-old economist studied at the University of Siena and London School of Economics before going on to work for the Bank of Italy and multinational energy company ENI.
He joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1988, where he worked for 25 years and served as director of the fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013.
Why is he known as “Mr Scissors”?
Mr Cottarelli left the IMF in 2013 to lead a review of Italian public spending amid the eurozone debt crisis.
As a “spending commissioner”, Mr Cottarelli used a 72-page document to recommend €32bn worth of government cuts – including a squeeze on pensions.
How did he get offered the job as PM?
The prime minister of Italy is appointed by the country’s president and must retain the confidence of parliament to remain in power.
Italy has been without a government since indecisive elections on 4 March resulted in a hung parliament.
After voters flocked to the 5-Star Movement and League Nord, the populist parties had agreed to form a governing coalition and backed little-known lawyer Giuseppe Conte as a compromise candidate for prime minister.
Mr Conte was offered the chance to lead a government by Italian president Sergio Mattarella earlier this month.
But he abandoned his efforts when the president rejected his choice of economy minister.
Mr Mattarella vetoed Paolo Savona being put in charge of Italy’s economy because the Eurosceptic university professor has previously questioned whether Italy should quit the euro.
Mr Savona, who was backed by 5-Star and the League, has also branded the EU’s single currency a “German cage”.
After Mr Conte dropped out, the president – now facing calls for his impeachment due to his actions – turned to Mr Cottarelli to form Italy’s 65th government since the Second World War.
What power would he have?
As prime minister, Mr Cottarelli will be able to nominate a list of cabinet ministers to be appointed by the president.
He is constitutionally allowed to direct the activity of the cabinet but has no formal power to fire them.
What is he likely to do?
Upon accepting a mandate from the president to form a technocratic and politically “neutral” government, Mr Cottarelli said his first task was to introduce a programme to parliament, including next year’s budget.
He used his first remarks as prime minister-designate to speak of “prudent” management of Italy’s huge national debt – which at 132% of GDP is the second-highest level in Europe after Greece.
Markets and the European Central Bank had previously been spooked by the possible effect of the populist coalition’s economic programme on Italy’s finances, who favour tax cuts and boosted government spending.
Mr Cottarelli also sought to calm nerves in Brussels by insisting he would act in “full recognition that as a founding country of the EU, our role in the union is essential, as is our continued participation in the eurozone”.
He aims to hold new elections at the beginning of next year, to bring an end to his interim administration.
However, Mr Cottarelli admitted his role might not even last that long if he does not win confidence votes in both of Italy’s parliamentary chambers.
If that is the case, Mr Cottarelli has said his government would resign immediately before managing day-to-day affairs until new elections after August.
League leader Matteo Salvini and 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio have made clear they will not support Mr Cottarelli’s administration.
Mr Salvini also warned former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi against allowing his Forza Italia party, which the League joined forces with before March’s elections, to back the technocratic government.
What are his political views?
Mr Cottarelli has emphasised the need to bring down Italy’s debt, which costs about €60bn per year to service through interest payments.
He also rejects suggestions the country should abandon the euro, insisting it isn’t the the root cause of Italy’s financial problems.
Following the Brexit vote in June 2016, Mr Cottarelli suggested EU governments should commit to holding no more referendums on such matters in the face of rising support for Eurosceptic parties across the bloc.
Mr Salvini has dismissed Mr Cottarella as “Mr Nobody” who “represents financial institutions”.