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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosaic 'Professor' Takes Troubled Italy in Hand

ROME -- Italian election winner Romano Prodi, a straight-talking economics professor who says he likes to finish what he has started, must now keep his word.


When he takes the helm of Italy's 55th government since World War II, he will have to deliver on promises to transform a country he says has been "all over the place" for many years.


His task is made easier by the fact that unlike Silvio Berlusconi, humbled leader of the center-right Freedom Alliance, the scholarly Prodi, known widely as "the Professor," did not set out to promise Italians the earth.


Instead, his more prosaic pledges included no fast tax cuts, a cap on public spending, a lid on inflation and fiscal rigor to keep alive Italy's hopes of joining the European monetary union.


Eugenio Scalfari, outgoing editor of left-leaning La Repubblica, warned Prodi in an editorial Tuesday that he did not have long to prove his mettle.


"The first 100 days of Prodi premier will be decisive," he wrote. "We hope he won't be slow in fulfilling the tasks he has set."


The Olive Tree's serious approach is set out in a policy program that has more than 180 pages. Following are the Olive Tree's key policies:


?Reform -- Prodi has said the long-overdue subject of constitutional reform will be tackled by all parties. He proposes scrapping the Senate (upper house) and replacing it with a Chamber of the Regions to give Italy a strengthened federal structure.


The Olive Tree wants voters to pick their prime minister at the polls -- the prime minister has to be named by the president under the current complex procedure -- and for a first-past-the-post, two-round electoral system.


The bloc wants to curb Italy's notorious parliamentary filibustering by trimming powers to present amendments to bills. It calls for fewer laws and a weekly chance for parliament to grill the government.


?Taxation -- Prodi has vowed to simplify the fiscal system while systematically stepping up the fight against tax fraud. He said he seeks to streamline income tax bands, make taxes more regional and introduce a carbon tax.


?Public Finances -- "We have built our campaign on a very strong duty toward public spending," Prodi said, reiterating a commitment not to increase spending in real terms to keep inflation in check.


?Unemployment -- Prodi has ruled out the re-introduction of index-linked salaries and pensions, as advocated by the Marxist party Communist Refoundation whose help gives the Olive Tree a majority in the Chamber. Italy's jobless rate is more than 12 percent.