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Letta seeks to save shaky govt with policy pact

Premier in peril amid challenges from within party

11 February, 19:47
Letta seeks to save shaky govt with policy pact (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Milan, February 11 - Premier Enrico Letta on Tuesday said that a policy pact with the parties in his coalition was imminent, a move that could instill stability to his shaky government. The left-right administration is in peril after coming under fire for lack of progress on reforms from Matteo Renzi, the leader of Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), the biggest group in parliament.

Letta met President Giorgio Napolitano for talks on the situation early on Tuesday and the head of State spent two hours with Renzi late on Monday. "Within hours I'll present my proposal for a coalition pact to the parties supporting the government," Letta said at Milan's BIT tourism fair, a promise that appeared to refer to Wednesday as the clock ticked.

"The government project that I'll present is convincing and I'm confident that it will convince all the parties that support the government. "I'm convinced that the plan will convince all the parties, including the PD. I met Napolitano this morning and we spoke about the government's prospects and the choices to make". Earlier on Tuesday Renzi told PD lawmakers he was bringing forward a crunch party meeting on the future of the government to Thursday. The meeting was originally scheduled for February 20. Renzi, the energetic 39-year-old mayor of Florence, is openly questioning whether it is worth continuing with Letta's weak left-right coalition government, which came to power in April to end two months of deadlock after last year's inconclusive general election. "It is false to say that our party is putting the brakes on the government," Renzi, who has been accused of undermining the premier rather than supporting him, told a meeting of PD lawmakers on Tuesday. "But the problem is a political one - that is to decide whether this parliamentary term can be one of change, or decide otherwise". There is speculation that Renzi could take over as premier, even though he has always said he wanted to take the helm of government after winning elections and not as a result of a pact between parties like the one that saw Letta come to power. Another possibility is that Italy will return to the polls for early elections later this year. There is also the hypothesis of Letta's administration being reinforced with a cabinet reshuffle incorporating Renzi loyalists. Renzi has blasted Letta's failure to make progress on institutional reforms designed to make Italy easier to govern and reduce the cost of the nation's political apparatus, saying little has been achieved 10 months into the 18-month period Letta set his executive to complete them. He has contrasted this inaction with his own dynamism. Renzi last month reached a deal with centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi for a new election law to replace the dysfunctional system that was declared unconstitutional in December.

The package, which is currently being examined in parliament, sets bars for small parties to force them into alliances and limit their power of veto and a 15% winner's bonus for a coalition that gets 37% or more to ensure it has a working majority. The House agreed to postpone voting on the bill until February 18 in light of Letta's impending policy pact. Renzi has also made an agreement with Berlusconi to reform parliament by stripping the Senate of its lawmaking powers to make it easier to pass legislation and to turn the Upper House into a chamber made up of 150 city mayors, governors and civil-society representatives, rather than the current 315 elected members. In addition, the PD leader and the 77-year-old billionaire have a deal to change the Constitution to scrap Italy's provincial governments, and hand back regional powers to Rome, to save money.