ROME — A day after accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's president on Sunday asked Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, to form a government charged with helping defend Italy from Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
President Giorgio Napolitano formally tapped Monti on Sunday evening after a day of meetings with political leaders across the spectrum, almost all of whom had pledged their support for a government of technocrats to guide Italy into its post-Berlusconi future.
Monti told reporters in Rome that he would get to work quickly to try to form a new government. Italy must "heal its finances" and resume growth because today's leaders owe it to future generations, The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
But in a sign of political wrangling to come, the leader of Berlusconi's People of Liberty party said that the party would support a Monti government only for as long as it could fulfill its mandate to push through measures to help reduce Italy's $2.6 trillion public debt and increase growth to keep the country competitive.
Berlusconi addressed the nation in a video message on Sunday evening, declaring his "love and passion" for Italy and his bitterness at having been jeered on Saturday after he tendered his resignation, an act he said had been one of "generosity" toward the country.
European leaders had come to see Berlusconi as a liability to Italy and the single currency as Italy's borrowing rates soared last week to levels that have forced other eurozone countries to seek bailouts. Months of political deadlock broke last week when Berlusconi lost his majority in a technical vote in the lower house. Humbled, he resigned on Saturday after Parliament approved the austerity measures.
Today, Monti was expected to present a cabinet of nonpoliticians and introduce his program before Parliament, where a majority must vote confidence in his government.
Many Italians awoke to what they felt was a new day in Italian politics, even if many did not quite believe that Berlusconi, a mainstay in their lives for nearly two decades, was really gone.
Some young Italians, who increasingly feel shut out of their own futures in a labor market that protects older workers, took Berlusconi's departure as a good sign.
"The government's complete immobility, deafness and incapability to understand reality and act accordingly was very scary," said Laura Calderoni, 36, an architect in Rome.