Italy’s Renzi resigns, hints at early election

Italy’s Renzi resigns, hints at early election

ROME – Agence France-Presse
Italy’s Renzi resigns, hints at early election

AFP photo

Matteo Renzi bowed out as Italian prime minister with a combination of jokes, regrets and a strong hint that he wants to lead his party into an early election battle.

Political consultations on forming a caretaker government started on Dec. 8, after Renzi formally submitted his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella following a crushing referendum defeat.

Before handing back the keys to his Palazzo Chigi residence, the 41-year-old chaired a meeting of the executive of his Democratic Party (PD).

“We are not afraid of anything or anybody, if other parties want to go to the polls .... the PD is not afraid of democracy or elections,” Renzi said, in reference to opposition clamor for a nationwide vote due in early 2018 to be brought forward by up to a year.

Ironically, Renzi’s rule came to an end with his government winning a vote of confidence in the Senate, the parliamentary chamber he tried to emasculate with a referendum in which he suffered a crushing defeat on Dec. 4.

The confidence vote curtailed prolonged discussion on the approval of Italy’s 2017 budget -- an unfinished task which had prompted Mattarella to ask Renzi to delay his departure for a few days. The opposition meanwhile insists the referendum was a vote of no confidence in the center-left coalition.

“Either we have immediate elections or we take to the streets,” Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League, warned on Dec. 7.

“We cannot make a mockery of the 32 million people who voted on Sunday.”

Polls taken before the referendum suggested that the PD remains well-placed to emerge from an election with the largest share of the vote, despite the upward trend in backing for the populist Five Star Movement.