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British dailies liken Renzi to Fonzie

Happy Days beckoning for Italy, they wonder

15 February, 16:20
British dailies liken Renzi to Fonzie (see previous).

(ANSA) - Rome, February 15 - British dailies the Guardian and The Times on Saturday likened Italy's probable new premier Matteo Renzi to Fonzie.

Both dailies ran a picture of the dynamic young Florence mayor and Democratic Party (PD) leader alongside one of Henry Winkler as the ultimate cool cat from the TV hit Happy Days.

Under the headline, 'Italy's new prime minister: is Renzi a young Blair, Berlusconi - or the Fonz?', the left-leaning Guardian noted that "critics say Democratic party star Matteo Renzi has reverted to old Italian tactics as he looks set to take power without election".

Calling him "the maverick young Italian prime minister in waiting", the Guardian recalled that the "bold, frank" reform-minded and business-friendly Renzi had earned the nickname Il Rottamatore - The Scrapper - for "his disregard for the old political machine" Now the politician with the most consistently high approval ratings in Italy, it said the 39-year-old's "blend of chutzpah and dynamism seduced many voters who felt he articulated their own exasperation with an ageing, sclerotic political class".

But it cited fears that he might be "simply too charismatic, telegenic and image-conscious to be reliable" and that his effective ouster of premier Enrico Letta, his party colleague, smacked of "a palace coup".

The Guardian recalled a 19-year-old Renzi's winning appearance on Italy's Wheel of Fortune in 1994, the year of Silvio Berlusconi first election win, and described him as "a young man in a hurry".

The Times, under the headline The Fonz, said Renzi was promising Happy Days for Italy.

"Once in power, however, Matteo Renzi could end up behaving more like Baroness Thatcher", it said. The Financial Times ran an editorial saying Renzi Takes a Dangerous Short Cut and also called the PD leader "a young man in a hurry to rescue Italy from crisis". The Daily Telegraph said Renzi, "like (Mario) Monti before him, is seen as a white knight coming to Italy's rescue".

Across the Atlantic, the International New York Times headlined Political Star Rises on Vow to Upend Italy's Old Order and observed that "Renzi engineered (Letta's) removal and is poised to succeed him, but now he faces the challenge of shaking the country out of its malaise".

Renzi, who is reportedly working on a "shock therapy" to create jobs, provide more housing and streamline government, is expected to get a government-formation mandate from President Giorgio Napolitano Saturday night or Sunday morning.