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'Rebel' Renzi eyes Letta pact, attacks Grillo

New centre-left leader says won't sink government

16 December, 18:11
'Rebel' Renzi eyes Letta pact, attacks Grillo (ANSA) - Rome, December 16 - Some political pundits thought Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi would set about undermining Premier Enrico Letta's coalition government as soon as he became the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

But the 38-year-old has shown no any inclination of wanting to sink the left-right executive and pushing for a snap vote so he can replace fellow PD man Letta at the helm of government after being elected secretary of the biggest group in parliament last week.

Instead, Renzi said he is looking for a pact with the government and the other main party supporting it, the New Centre Right (NCD) of Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano, to ensure the administration can work effectively in the medium term.

"We need to make a German-style agreement, note by note, point by point and with a fixed timetable for the next 12 to 15 months," Renzi said at a PD assembly on Sunday at which he was installed as party leader, referring to the pact made by rival groups for Chancellor Angela Merkel's new grand-coalition government in Berlin. Renzi said this pact should focus on Italy's jobs crisis, with unemployment at a record high of over 12% and four in 10 young people under 25 out of work as the country struggles to emerge from its longest post-war recession.

This would also give the government time to push through reforms designed to reduce the cost of Italy's political apparatus and make the country easier to govern, including a new election law, reductions to the number of parliamentarians and curtailing the Senate's law-making powers.

The pact should also feature changes to immigration law to enable children born in Italy to foreign parents to obtain citizenship and the introduction of civil unions for gay people, Renzi said.

"We must all help Enrico in the European presidency term," Renzi said referring to Italy's duty presidency of the EU in the second half of 2014.

Renzi has presents himself as representing change to the tired, static world of Italian politics and has been compared to the young Tony Blair.

"Let's stay rebellious and change Italy," he said. "Each of us have our own pantheon of rebels, but being a rebel is a challenge with yourself, above all".

Instead of making life difficult for Letta, he turned his fire on one of the premier's top critics, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).

Grillo's last attacks have regarded the government's decree to phase out public funding of political parties by 2017.

The foul-mouthed comedian-turned-politician said that if the PD really wanted to end public funding of political parties it could just stop accepting the money, like the M5S does.

Renzi sought to call his bluff Sunday, saying the PD would go without the money if Grillo agreed to support institutional reforms, including reforms to ensure that the party that wins the elections has the power to govern.

"If you commit to the reforms, I'll do without 40 million euros (in public money)," Renzi said. "Sign here. If not, you're a buffoon".

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