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Renzi set to take the reins in Italy

carlo nidasio flickrThe Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi (pictured right), has been asked by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, to form a new government.

Renzi, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is set to replace Enrico Letta, who has been PM since April 2013. Letta’s government replaced Mario Monti‘s technocratic administration following elections held last February.

Letta’s left-right grand coalition had become increasingly fragile during his ten months in charge. Frustrated at the pace of economic and political reform, Renzi – who took the PD leadership in December 2013 – called a meeting of the party’s national committee, which backed his call for a change of government.

Splits in the centre-right and criticism from Renzi helped to destabilise Letta’s government. Last week Letta presented a package of reforms called ‘Impegno Italia’ (Italy’s commitment) focused on tax cuts, a review of public spending and increased investment. This package of reforms was criticised by Renzi, not least because it seemed to copy his own ideas, set out in his ‘Jobs Act’ programme.

After days of tension, Letta handed his resignation to the Italian President on Friday 14 February, less than 24 hours after the PD leadership withdrew its backing. After consultations with party leaders, President Napolitano asked Renzi on Monday 17 February to form an administration by the end of this week.

Renzi has accepted (with the usual reservation of a new PM-designate) and will probably appoint ministers by next Monday. Official consultations will start on Tuesday. As for Letta, he is now being tipped as a possible candidate for one of the top jobs in Brussels in 2014.

The political situation is complicated and not all political parties have decided whether to support Renzi. The Five Star Movement (M5S), led by Beppe Grillo, did not even participate in the consultations.

Renzi recently met Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister and current leader of the centre-right Forza Italia party, to discuss a new electoral law. Renzi argued last week that new elections would be pointless under the current law, which makes it hard to build strong coalitions; however, opinion polls suggest that most Italians Рlike several political leaders Рdid not want this change without a popular vote.

The only thing that is certain is that Renzi – who, at 39 years old, will become Italy’s youngest-ever PM – will have to overcome the economic crisis, which is one of the biggest challenges for Italy. He will also have to create more job opportunities and reform the political system, including a reduction in the size of the Italian Parliament.

The test of his promises will come soon.

Irma Cordella – Burson-Marsteller Italy, Rome

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