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May 30, 2017

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Matteo Renzi, Italy's youngest-ever prime minister, sworn in

ROME -- Italy's youngest-ever prime minister Matteo Renzi and his fresh-faced cabinet were sworn in Saturday, amid widespread skepticism that the new government has the political maturity to tackle the country's formidable challenges.

The 39-year-old former mayor of Florence was accompanied by his wife and three children — dressed in the colors of the Italian flag — to the formal ceremony at the presidential palace, and smiled widely as he watched his new team sworn in by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

The center-left leader takes over the reins 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.

"It is a hard and difficult task. But we are Italy, we'll succeed. A pledge: to remain true to ourselves, free and simple," Renzi said in a tweet.

The new premier is expected to present his program to the upper house of parliament on Monday, before addressing the lower house on Tuesday.

In his 16-strong cabinet, 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.

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 Renzi can revolutionize 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 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."

'Acrobat on a high wire'

Most political watchers agreed that Renzi's best decision was to give the key post of finance minister to Pier Carlo Padoan, the chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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