Italy's Meloni says technocrats may join new government

FILE PHOTO: Leader of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni speaks at the party's election night headquarters, in Rome, Italy September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's next cabinet will include "high-profile" figures who might not be career politicians, Giorgia Meloni, widely expected to be named prime minister, told party members on Wednesday.

Meloni's Brothers of Italy party led a rightist bloc, including Forza Italia and the League, to victory during a general election last month, and negotiations among the allies on key government jobs have begun.

The "starting point" to fill posts is "qualifications", and if this means finding "the best candidates outside parliament, this will certainly not be a problem," Meloni was quoted as saying at a party meeting, the first since her victory on Sept. 25.

The role of economy minister is widely seen as the most important and difficult position to fill, amid a grim outlook as Italy's economy is expected to have shrunk in the third quarter and to keep falling until mid-2023.

Names repeatedly cited in Italian media include two technocrats: European Central Bank board member Fabio Panetta and Morgan Stanley executive Domenico Siniscalco, who already held the position 18 years ago.

However, Panetta has made clear he is not interested in the job and Siniscalco has not been contacted by Meloni, political sources told Reuters.

Another mooted candidate, sitting Economy Minister Daniele Franco has ruled out staying on, a separate political source said.

The new administration, which could be sworn in as early as this month, will face a daunting list of challenges, including soaring energy prices, war in Ukraine and the renewed economic slowdown.

"We are probably facing the most difficult period in the history of the Italian republic," Meloni said.

She pledged "discontinuity" with policies of the last administrations and said Italy needed "the most respected and high-profile possible cabinet."

However, the rightist leader said she was in contact with Prime Minister Mario Draghi's outgoing national unity government - which Brothers of Italy did not join - to ensure a smooth power transition.

"We have tight time constraints but we are ready. And we have the skills and capabilities," Meloni told party members.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Alvise Armellini and Bernadette Baum)

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