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Tension for govt soars as Alfano, Renzi squabble

NCD leader says PD must decide if it wants Letta to be premier

15 January, 11:08
Tension for govt soars as Alfano, Renzi squabble (ANSA) - Rome, January 15 - Premier Enrico Letta faces political tension when he returns from a three-day visit to Mexico on Wednesday, with the leaders of the two main parties supporting his coalition government engaged in major squabbles.

Matteo Renzi, the ambitious new leader of Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), continued to press for the executive to get cracking on reforms Tuesday, arguing it was an "euphemism" to say the government has not done much since being sworn in last April. He attacked Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, the leader of the New Centre Right (NCD) party, for his stance on a new election law to replace the old system that was recently declared illegitimate by the Constitutional Court and on institutional reforms designed to make Italy easier to govern. Renzi, the telegenic 39-year-old mayor of Florence who has been compared to the young Tony Blair, also said the PD, the biggest group in parliament, should dictate the government's policies from now on.

Alfano hit back on Wednesday.

"We won't let anyone dictate the agenda," he said on Italian radio. "Arrogance does not go down well with the Italian people".

Renzi's pressure for the government to accelerate has unsettled the balance between the PD and the NCD, a group of centre-right moderates who split from loyalists of Silvio Berlusconi in November when it became clear that the ex-premier was intent on withdrawing his support for the executive.

Alfano said the NCD would pull out if of the government if Renzi continues to "shake" it.

"The PD should meet and decide if Letta is the recognised premier," said Alfano. "If that's the case, we'll keep going. Otherwise there's no use going round in circles and keeping Italy on tenterhooks.

"We want clear pacts and a short friendship (between the PD and the NCD) for one year. "If the government gets paralysed or there is the arrogance of people saying only the PD's proposals will go through, we'll pull out". Renzi has stirred friction with Alfano with his suggestions for the policy pact that Letta is currently thrashing out with the parties supporting the government.

These include suggestions the pact should include measures to recognise gay unions and should soften Italy's tough immigration laws. The NCD is opposed to both proposals.