Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Renzi asked to form government

Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi has arrived at Italy's presidential palace (AP)

Italy's president has asked the young leader of the Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi, to try to form a government after Mr Renzi engineered the sacking of the previous premier in a power grab within their party.

Mr Renzi, the 39-year-old mayor of Florence, met for more than an hour with President Giorgio Napolitano and said he had accepted the challenge with the traditional reservation used for new premier-elects to consult with potential allies. He said he would need a "few days" before formally accepting the job.

But Mr Renzi already had his plans laid out, telling reporters that by the end of the month he would propose new legislation to reform Italy's electoral law to make the country more governable. By March he promised new measures to create jobs in a country where 40% of young people are without work. April and May would bring other reforms, he vowed.

"I assured the president, the political forces and I'd say all Italians who are witnessing this government crisis that I would put all the courage, energy and enthusiasm I can muster to deal with the most important emergency: that of the labour market," he said after meeting with Mr Napolitano.

Just last week, Mr Renzi had orchestrated the mutiny within the Democratic Party to oust Enrico Letta as premier, accusing him of failing to jumpstart Italy's economy. In the days after Mr Letta's sacking, Italy reported its first positive GDP in nearly three years.

Mr Renzi's first challenge is to form a coalition and present a plan of government that can win votes of confidence in both houses of parliament. That is no easy task given his aggressive power-grab has alienated even some within his own party, not to mention opposition parties.

Outside the Quirinale palace on Monday, the small Italy Brothers centre-right movement staged a protest shouting "Elections! Elections!" Party leaders have been incensed that Mr Renzi, who has never served in parliament, is likely to become Italy's next premier without having ever stood for national elections.

In fact, he would be the third premier to be appointed without a ballot since 2011.

More importantly, the New Centre Right movement of Angelino Alfano, who had served as Mr Letta's deputy premier in the coalition government, has refused to give Mr Renzi his support, saying he wants to see his plan of action before deciding whether to back the government.

The much larger Forza Italia movement of Silvio Berlusconi has said it would remain in opposition, while the upstart, anti-establishment 5 Star Movement of comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo has boycotted the transition process altogether.

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