D'Alema moots alternative centre left

Orfini says attack will be discussed at PD meeting

(ANSA) - Rome, March 11 - Former premier Massimo D'Alema on Friday mooted an alternative centre left to the allegedly rightwards-creeping and increasingly autocratic Democratic Party (PD) of Premier and PD leader Matteo Renzi.
    D'Alema's surprisingly vehement attack prompted PD Chairman Matteo Orfini to say that the issue will be discussed at an already scheduled showdown March 21 on recent controversial mayoral primaries across Italy which have highlighted various PD ills.
    In his stinging attack on Renzi, D'Alema - Italy's first post-Communist premier, and the first ex-Communist to lead a NATO country, from 1998 to 2000 - said the voters are disaffected and warned of a potential split.
    He stressed, however, that he believes an alternative to Renzi must be a centre-left group and not another small party to the left of the PD.
    "The enormous malaise on the left of the PD is being translated into abstentionism, disaffection, new (electoral) lists, new parties," D'Alema said in an interview published in Friday's Corriere della Sera.
    "No one can exclude the possibility that, in the end, someone will turn this malaise into a new party.
    "The real challenge is how to rebuild the centre left and today that is a battle that is not just taking place within the PD".
    Renzi has frequently come under fire from members of his own party for having a too authoritarian approach to leading it and for passing measures that one might expect from a right winger, such as the Jobs Act labour reform and the scrapping of property taxes on people's first homes. "It's necessary to work to reconstruct the centre-left, not create a little party to the left of the PD," D'Alema told Sky television.
    "It's a political and cultural battle that passes both inside and outside the PD because many have decided to go," added the 66-year-old, widely seen as part of the old guard of Italian politics that Renzi has campaigned to have "scrapped". "There are many figures around whom you can recreate an alternative centre left to Renzi.
    "When the time comes for the PD congress, this will come to light". D'Alema added that he believed Renzi was not a "person who easily budges from the head of government seat" when asked if the premier might resign if the PD does badly in local elections in June. PD Chairman Orfini said Friday that D'Alema's attack will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of senior PD members. "We will discuss the political issues that D'Alema poses at the directorate meeting of March 21," Orfini told ANSA. Orfini initially called the meeting after internal clashes followed Sunday's primaries in six Italian cities, including Rome and Naples.
    Both the winner and the runner-up of the Naples primary are presenting appeals after footage of apparent vote-buying was published.
    Furthermore, some members of a minority within the centre-left group who frequently oppose Renzi's positions said that the low turnout for the Rome primary reflected disaffection among supporters.
    Critics also said it showed there was a problem in Renzi having the dual role of premier and party leader.
    In addition to blasting Renzi, D'Alema also accused Orfini of being arrogant. Orfini said this accusation from D'Alema, who is frequently accused of arrogance himself, "did not add up".
    Renzi is set to counter D'Alema's attack on Saturday when sources said he will say that "the PD wins the way it is now".
    D'Alema appeared to be backed up by another of the PD's old guard, former leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who said the party could split "if Renzi leaves" and called party minority leader Roberto Speranza a "young thoroughbred".
    PD deputy leader Lorenzo Guarini said "dialectic is OK but we mustn't open a polemic every day".
    He said the proof that the PD was heading the right way was in the reform programme it is enacting.