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Italian P.M. Letta to resign, opening the way for Renzi

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Published : 2014-02-14 20:22
Updated : 2014-02-14 20:22

ROME (AFP) ― Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta announced his resignation on Thursday after his own party voted against his leadership, with 39-year-old leftist Matteo Renzi now expected to replace him.

Enrico Letta (Bloomberg)
Letta said he will submit his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday after less than a year at the head of an uneasy left-right coalition and just as Italy is beginning to emerge from a painful recession.

Members of the center-left Democratic Party’s governing directorate voted 136 in favor and 16 against a motion requesting a change of government submitted by Renzi in a dramatic climax to a weeks-long feud with Letta.

“A simple and courageous country,” Renzi tweeted at the end of a tumultuous political day.

Renzi called on the Democratic Party to back a new “radical program” and a government that could last until the end of the legislature in 2018.

“We have to offer a way out of the quagmire,” he said.

The party thanked Letta, who only came to power in April, for his “positive work” but called for “a new phase with a new executive.”

Ever since being elected to lead the party in December, the ambitious and media-savvy Renzi has accused Letta of dragging his feet on crucial political reforms and failing to do enough to combat rampant unemployment.

Letta will now hold his final cabinet meeting starting at 1030 GMT on Friday, then formally submit his resignation to Napolitano who will have to name someone to replace him ― with Renzi virtually certain to be his pick.

A new cabinet could be in place by next week, following a round of formal consultations with political parties hosted by the nominee for premier.

In the space of just a few days, a possibility that Renzi himself and top party leaders had excluded until very recently could take shape and Renzi could become the youngest government leader in the European Union.

Some analysts however were skeptical about Renzi’s chances once in power.

Giovanni Orsina, politics watcher for La Stampa daily, said Renzi’s power move was “grave and risky” because he lacked an electoral mandate to govern.

“He will be forgiven all of this if he manages to do important things but his would be a weak government,” Orsina said, pointing out that the fragmentation of political forces in parliament would be unchanged.

Marco Bracconi from La Repubblica warned that if Renzi fails to implement reforms “he will be remembered as a presumptuous and boorish meteor who destroyed everything and failed to build ― all due to a personal ambition.”

Stock markets fell sharply during trading but later gained ground and the benchmark FTSE Mib index ended the day down 0.17 percent, while borrowing costs rose for Italy on the bond market, reflecting increased investor jitters.

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