Italy’s president on Sunday gave Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni a mandate to try to form the country’s new government.
Gentiloni said he would try to form the government as soon as possible and that it would move “within the same framework” as the outgoing government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
“I am aware of the urgent need to give Italy a government with full powers,” he said.
The 62-year-old prime-minister designate is a key member of Renzi’s Democratic Party. Renzi resigned on Wednesday after losing a referendum on constitutional reform on which he had staked his job.
Gentiloni will now select his ministers. He is expected to return to the presidential palace as early as Sunday night or Monday morning to present his cabinet list to the head of state.
The next moves for Gentiloni are a familiar process in Italy, which has had 63 governments in the past 70 years.
Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) has a majority in both houses of parliament but the PD itself is severely divided between Renzi backers, such as Gentiloni, and opponents.
All major parties have called for elections as soon as possible. But before any vote can take place, Italy needs a new electoral law to replace one that applies only to the lower house and could be declared illegitimate in January by the Constitutional Court.
The legislature is due to carry on until 2018, but early elections could be called at any time after parliament rewrites the electoral law.
Gentiloni will report back to Mattarella on his progress in rallying support and, if he cannot assemble political backing for a new government, Mattarella could ask someone else to try.
If Gentiloni is successful, a new government could be installed within days.
The next incumbent will immediately face a crisis in the banking sector, whose third-largest lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena may need state intervention to avoid collapse.
After consulting with around 40 political parties over the past three days, Mattarella pledged on Saturday to act quickly to give the country a fully functioning government.