Matteo Renzi: Does Italy’s Young PM Mean Business?

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In Italian politics, it seems to be a literal representation of, “out with the old and in with the new”.

Matteo Renzi, who was sworn in as Italy’s prime minister, is seen as a fresh-faced youngster. He is in fact the youngest Italian prime minister ever sworn in. At age 39, he’s not exactly a child, but some skeptics continue to wonder if Renzi has the maturity and experience to meet the serious challenges faced by the Italian people.

“It is a hard and difficult task,” said Renzi in a recent Tweet, “but we are Italy, we'll succeed. A pledge: to remain true to ourselves, free and simple.”

Renzi’s cabinet is also a matter of much buzz. Half the members are women, and with an average age of 47.8, it is the youngest cabinet in Italy’s history.

Renzi was congratulated by French President Francois Hollande and even given an invite to Paris for talks.

Some may look at Renzi and his young cabinet and be reminded of JFK’s “Camelot”, when during the young American president’s early term, many were surprised not only by his youth in comparison to previous leadership, but the youth of those around him.

Conventional wisdom in politics, even now, seems to be that it’s a realm to be dominated by old men.

The youthful but determined Renzi does not seem to think age is the determining factor in whether or not one is able to do a job: Rather knowledge and ability.

This is perhaps why even though much of Renzi’s cabinet is young, he opted to let 68-year-old Pier Carlo Padoan among his ranks as a finance minister. By all accounts Padoan is a brilliant economist who was best suited to the task.

Italy is still struggling to shake off the effects of a devastating global recession. The unemployment rate is at 12.7 percent, a record for the nation. The Italian people are tired of posturing and the failure of its leaders to keep promises to bring much needed change to the country.

Renzi and his cabinet are fresh blood that has been pumped into the heart of Italy. He has the support of the majority of parliament, but their decision-making isn’t entirely reliable.

There is concern that if Renzi fails, it will open the door for extremist Italian political figures, such as the anti-establishment Five Star movement, waiting in the wings.

Renzi understands the pressure that is on himself and his cabinet. Said Renzi, "We are not only putting our careers on the line but also our heads."

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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