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Renzi to meet Napolitano Monday, set for govt mandate

Alfano warns PD leader he can't ride roughshod over allies

16 February, 18:31
Renzi to meet Napolitano Monday, set for govt mandate (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, February 16 - Matteo Renzi, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), looks set to become Italy's youngest-ever premier after President Giorgio Napolitano on Sunday summoned him to a meeting on Monday at 10:30. Napolitano, who held consultations with political parties on Friday and Saturday after Enrico Letta quit as premier, is expected to give Renzi a mandate to try form a new government. The 39-year-old mayor of Florence torpedoed Letta, his PD colleague, this week by pulling the support of the biggest group in parliament from the outgoing coalition government. Once Renzi is given the mandate, he will then hold talks with other parties on setting a government programme and a new cabinet.

If the negotiations are successful, Renzi and his ministers will be sworn in and the new government will face confidence votes in both houses of parliament.

Renzi said the power play that sank Letta was necessary to accelerate much-needed institutional reforms, including a new election law, and measures to boost Italy's economy, which is slowly pulling out of its worst postwar recession.

The PD leader, who has a more aggressive style than the softly spoken, diplomatic Letta, will now have to show that he is able to deliver results with what is likely to be the same fractious alliance his party rival had.

He is reportedly framing a raft of reforms that would amount to "shock therapy" for Italy's expensive and slow-moving political system and sputtering economy.

But he will need the support of several small centrist parties and the New Centre Right (NCD) of Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to have a working majority in the Senate.

The second- and third-biggest groups in parliament, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia, are set to stay in the opposition. Alfano warned earlier on Sunday that if the NCD's demands were not met, Renzi would not become premier.

"It's simple. We are decisive for the creation of the new government," Alfano told a meeting of the NCD, which is made up of centre-right moderates who split from Berlusconi loyalists in November when FI pulled its support for Letta's government.

"If we say no to this government, it won't come to life".

He also said, however, that he hoped he could reach an agreement with Renzi for a government that would set off a "march" towards a "liberal revolution" that three-time premier Berlusconi failed to bring about.

The NCD has said it wants a "German-style" governing pact.

Renzi, nicknamed Demolition Man for his long-declared drive to 'scrap' the old guard and overhaul Italy's political system, looks set to be Italy's third straight unelected premier.

Deals between parties led to the creation of Letta's administration after last year's inconclusive general election and the emergency technocrat government of Mario Monti in 2011. Renzi had always said he wanted to become premier by winning elections and some have argued it is ironic that a man who presents himself as the face of change has staged a palace coup reminiscent of Italy's revolving-door governments of old.

Renzi, who has been likened to a young Tony Blair, has vowed to forge an executive built to last until the end of the parliamentary term in 2018.

Outgoing Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni warned Renzi Sunday that he should not underestimate the challenge ahead.

"I think it's important to continue with what's been done and it is possible to accelerate," Saccomanni told Sky television. "But you have to be careful. When you change pace, the first effect is that you stop while you think about what pace to take.

"There is growing impatience in our country because people want fast results," added the minister Saccomanni, who is not likely to be asked to stay in his job by Renzi according to media reports. "I agree with that, but the Italian economy is like a big oil tanker, you can't turn it around from one moment to the next, you need constant work".