Enrico Letta Resigns: Renzi's Eyes Are On The Prize

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Enrico Letta officially resigned from the Italian Prime Minister position this week.

This move follows a discontent by many in past months regarding his indecisive actions and slow-moving reforms. The Democratic Party agreed that changes in government and new reforms are crucial to maintain power until 2018, thus implying that he should resign. Foreseeing this moment, Letta made a last ditch effort against opposition Wednesday by presenting a new agenda for reform, defending his government's economic record, and claiming the country was already realizing signs of recovery.

The PD majority wasn’t buying it.

In his Thursday night statement, Letta said: “Following the decisions taken today in the national committee of the Democratic party, I have informed the president, Giorgio Napolitano, of my desire to go to the Quirinale tomorrow to tender my resignation as prime minister.”

Now that Italy's President has accepted Letta’s resignation, it looks as if the position may next be filled by Matteo Renzi.

Renzi, also a Democratic Party leader, is a law graduate who began his political career in his hometown as provincial president in 2004 and then became mayor in 2009. He then gained notoriety at the national level by sharing the public’s resentment of the ruling class. Advocating that the political class be entirely nixed, he earned the nickname “The Scrapper”.

Thursday, he lived up to this title when he scrapped Letta by moving to bring about new reforms.

After expressing an aim to pull the eurozone’s third-largest economy “out of the quagmire”, the PD’s national committee voted to back this motion. The charismatic mayor of Florence now stands to become the youngest post-war premier in Italy’s history. He also would be the third in less than three years who has been appointed – not voted – into office.

2008 was the last year Italy held a successful election.

During that year, Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire tycoon who had commanded Italian politics for 20 years, took the position of PM for his third time. In 2011, he resigned, following pressure in the midst of economic woes and was expelled from his parliament position after convictions including tax fraud and sex with a minor.

As Renzi is on deck, his political contemporaries are already issuing cautionary advice.

Angelino Alfano, leader of the New Centre Right (NCD) party in coalition with Letta, said that if Renzi's executive did not offer the right "political conditions", they would “say no to the birth of a new government".

Vincenzo Scarpetta of the Open Europe thinktank, also weighed in, saying: "It remains to be seen whether the move will make a real difference – and there are risks involved.” He went on to add, "Renzi is likely to face the same political logjam which ultimately cost Letta his job, and will be exposed to fierce criticism, especially from the Five Star Movement, for being the third prime minister in a row to take power without winning an election."

Acknowledging accusations of excessive ambition, Renzi responded by saying: "Today we have to have a huge ambition, which is to think that Italy cannot exist for the coming months and coming years in a situation of uncertainty, instability, quagmire, hesitation."

Although one state TV poll found that 53 percent of Italians would favor a Renzi-led government, other Italian polls indicate a majority disapproval about his rise to power in this way. While the 39-year-old politician was far from furtive about his ambition, it was thought he would gain the position via election, not a staffetta (relay).

Perhaps Renzi’s ambition could be best expressed by a Tony Blair quote he admires.

"I adore one of his sayings," he once shared: "I love all the traditions of my party, except one: that of losing elections."

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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