ROME (Reuters) - The nomination of a former Italian prime minister notorious for collecting multiple state pensions to a lucrative new job has sparked fury among Italians fed up with the privileges of a political class seemingly immune to austerity.
Veteran two-time centre-left premier Giuliano Amato, 75, nicknamed “Dr Subtle” for his political acumen, was named as a constitutional court judge on Thursday.
Viewed as the ultimate political insider, who collects multiple state pensions worth over 31,000 euro ($41,200) a month before tax, Amato was touted for both prime minister and president in turmoil following a deadlocked February election.
His nomination by President Giorgio Napolitano to a post that will earn him an extra 427,000 euros gross a year - twice they pay of a U.S. Supreme Court judge - quickly drew public ire as Italy struggles to plug its budget deficit amid the longest recession since World War Two.
“The country is still at the mercy of the usual suspects,” lawmaker Roberto Fico of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement wrote on Facebook. “Italy can no longer be condemned to be a slave to these characters.”
Other deputies protested against the decision in parliament.
Anger at revolving-door politics propelled the 5-Star Movement to a quarter of the vote on pledges to cut politicians’ salaries - 60 percent higher than the European average - and kick the old guard out of parliament.
Construction worker Tonino Cortese, 53, said a privileged caste appeared to be untouched by austerity while ordinary people paid through tax hikes and cuts to public services.
“Any one of them earns 10 times what I do. I’ve worked hard every day of my life and it’s getting harder to find work,” said Cortese, smoking a cigarette outside a Rome building site. “We the citizens are paying for the crisis. It doesn’t touch them.”
Giulia Rocca, a 23-year-old student, shared his outrage.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Rocca. “One group has all the power in Italy and it feels like we can’t do anything. We are all fed up and we can’t put up with it anymore.”
As prime minister in 1992, Amato famously asked Italians “to put one hand on their hearts and get their wallets out with the other” when he imposed a 0.6 percent levy on bank accounts in a “blood and tears” austerity drive following a currency crisis.
Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Paul Taylor