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New centre-left leader Renzi promises fresh start

Florence mayor crushes rivals in primaries

09 December, 10:59
New centre-left leader Renzi promises fresh start (ANSA) - Rome, December 9 - Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi promised to give Italy a fresh start after winning the primary to be the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

The telegenic 38-year-old, who has been compared to the young Tony Blair, crushed his two rivals in Sunday's primary, winning around 70% of the votes cast by close to three million centre-left supporters.

Renzi, who has led a long campaign for the old guard of Italian politics to be "scrapped", lost a primary last year to be the centre-left's premier candidate ahead of February's general election.

His confrontation approach and unashamed ambition stirred skepticism among the PD's rank and file, a large part of which stems from the transformed rump of what used to be Western Europe's largest Communist party.

But the majority of the party has cast aside its reservations about a candidate who is capable of reaching out of centrist voters after it squandered a big lead on the opinion polls before the general election and ended up being part of a unstable left-right coalition government.

"This is not the end of a left, it is the end for a group of the left's political leaders," said Renzi, who is set to announce a new party executive at a news conference later on Monday.

"We have to show that we can win.

"From now on there will be no more shady deals. We have to take account of the two and a half million people who voted (in the primary). "They won't give us a second chance to change things".

Renzi's widely expected election to the leadership will inevitably change the PD's relationship with the government led by Premier Enrico Letta, a member of the centre-left party.

Letta, who is 47 and also part of the new guard of Italian, said he was confident there would be no problems even though Renzi frequently been critical of the executive.

"We will work with team spirit with the PD's new secretary in a way that is fruitful and useful to Italy and to the centre left," Letta said.

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