Italy prepares to swear in youngest-ever PM

ROME - Italy prepared to swear in its youngest-ever PM and his fresh-faced cabinet Saturday, amid widespread scepticism that the new government has the political maturity to tackle the country's formidable challenges.

Centre-left leader Matteo Renzi takes over the reigns of the eurozone's third largest economy in a period of increasing frustration among ordinary Italians hard hit by a deep recession and weary of broken political promises.

In his 16-strong cabinet, unveiled late on Friday, half of the new ministers are women and - with an average age of 47.8 years - it is the youngest government in Italy's history. It is also the third unelected government to be sworn in in as many years.

Renzi is "gambling on freshness, newness and energy", but "doubts must be raised over the government's experience and ability to have a bearing on the worst post-war economic crisis Italy has known," said political watcher Mario Calabresi in La Stampa daily.

Il Sole 24 Ore financial daily warned that "Italians are waiting for reforms, not just pretty smiles."

European partners will be watching closely to see whether the 39-year-old can revolutionise the halls of power after ousting his predecessor Enrico Letta for failing to enact reforms in a country often perceived as stifled by corruption and bureaucracy.

The new prime minister had made it clear he was reluctant to keep a team that worked with Letta, but many analysts expressed surprise over the former Florence mayor's decision to change the majority of posts, including key offices such as foreign minister.

"Renzi seems to be betting everything on himself, on his political energy," editorialist Ezio Mauro for La Repubblica daily said, while Marco Travaglio in Il Fatto Quotidiano described the new cabinet as "a boiled chicken soup which disappoints even the most lukewarm expectations."

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