Younger rival ousts Italian PM
The 39-year-old mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, has ousted Italy’s centre-left Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, after an internal party vote.
"Following the decisions taken today in the national committee of the Democratic party, I have informed the president, Giorgio Napolitano, of my desire to go to the Quirinale tomorrow to tender my resignation as prime minister," Letta said in a statement on Thursday (13 February).
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The party voted 136 votes to 16, with two abstentions, to create a new government with the task of pulling Italy out of a crisis that has seen its economy shrink by nine percent in seven years.
The new government is set to take over until 2018.
Following the vote, Renzi told party members “Italy cannot live in a situation of uncertainty and instability. We are at a crossroads.”
The Florence mayor, who led the call for change and is the party leader since December, was not officially announced as Letta’s successor but is almost certain to become Italy’s next prime minister.
The 88-year old Napolitano is expected to ask Renzi to step into Letta’s role once he officially resigns on Friday, making the mayor the third prime minister in the past three years to take power without winning an election.
Described as charismatic and ambitious, Renzi has had little experience in national politics. He has never been elected to parliament.
An election under the existing electoral rules, he says, would risk creating a deadlock and jeopardise attempts by the new administration to implement much needed constitutional, electoral and bureaucratic reforms by 2018.
As the eurozone’s third largest economy, Italy is struggling to reign in high unemployment rates not seen in the past 40 years with frustration mounting against the slow pace of government-led improvements.
Public debt tops €2 trillion and youth unemployment is at 41 percent.
Renzi is perceived by some analysts as someone more likely than Letta to break EU budget rules in favour of structural reforms. He is also said to want to loosen rules on hiring and firing for companies.
correction: this article originally stated Italy was the EU's third largest economy when in fact it is the eurozone's third largest economy