Letta quits as Italian premier, Renzi poised to step in
Napolitano to hold talks with parties on new govt Fri, Sat14 February, 15:07
Renzi effectively pulled the plug on Letta's executive when he requested the PD withdraw support at a party meeting Thursday so he could take the helm of a new one that would drag Italy out of the "quagmire".
He had been haranguing the government since he won a PD leadership primary in December.
Renzi complained over its lack of progress on passing a new electoral law, on institutional reforms to make Italy easier to govern and reduce the costs of the country's political apparatus and on measures to revive the economy, which is slowly emerging from its longest postwar recession.
Napolitano's office said he will hold a round of consultations on the formation of a new government with Italy's political parties later on Friday and on Saturday. The head of State said in a statement that Letta's resignation was irrevocable and therefore there would be no confidence vote in parliament to formalise the collapse of the government.
The main opposition parties, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, had said parliament should sink the government, not the PD, Italy's biggest party. Napolitano said he was holding the consultations "in the shortest time possible" given the "delicate economic period" and the need for a new election law and other reforms. "This is one of the best moments in my life," Renzi, who has been compared to a young Tony Blair, told reporters at a Florence ceremony with couples marking 50 years of marriage earlier on Friday.
Renzi has said he wants the next government to last until the end of the parliamentary term in 2018, giving it time to enact a sweeping agenda to change a discredited and dysfunctional political system and deliver growth to lower record unemployment.
He will probably be working with the same coalition that supported Letta, featuring the PD, plus several small centrist groups and Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano's New Centre Right (NCD).
The NCD is made up of centre-right moderates who opted to keep supporting Letta's government and keep it alive when Berlusconi pulled his support just before being ejected in parliament in November following a definitive tax-fraud conviction.
The M5S, which captured about a quarter of the vote at last year's inconclusive general elections, has said it will not take part in the consultations with Napolitano and that it sees a Renzi administration as no different from Letta's. Renzi looks set to be Italy's third straight non-elected premier, after deals between parties led to the creation of Letta's administration last year and the emergency technocrat government of Mario Monti in 2011.
The power play that scuppered Letta has exposed Renzi to accusations of hypocrisy after his repeated insistence on wishing to become premier through the electoral process, and not through the sort of back-room deals that typified Italy's revolving-door politics through much of the postwar era.