Renzi withdrawal shakes new Italian coalition 

Renzi withdrawal shakes new Italian coalition 

Italy’s new coalition government has been undermined a week since being installed after former prime minister Matteo Renzi broke away from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Renzi said he would continue to support the PD’s coalition with the Five Star Movement (M5S) but he is expected to take about 30 parliamentarians, weakening the influence of PD leader Nicola Zingaretti. He could also topple the coalition if he withdrew his support.

Renzi, 44, worked hard to create the coalition between the PD and the anti-establishment M5S, but has instantly abandoned his creation. 

The new coalition holds 341 seats in Italy’s 640-seat lower house. It has a more tenuous grip on the senate with 162 of the 321 seats.

“I have decided to leave the party and to build together with others a new house to do politics differently,” the former mayor of Florence posted on Facebook. 

Polling suggests support for the centre-left is low. 

A Corriere della Sera newspaper poll suggested that a new Renzi-led centrist party could win between 3 per cent and 8 per cent of votes. Renzi has low approval ratings among Italian voters but retained influence inside the PD. 

A majority of voters appear split between the anti-migrant Lega and M5S, whose populist coalition collapsed last month. 

Italy’s youngest former prime minister resigned in 2016 when he lost a referendum on constitutional reform.

Renzi said he told Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that a new party would broaden the appeal of the coalition. The senator told La Repubblica that he was not trying to undermine Zingaretti. “I do not have a personal problem with Zingaretti, and nor does he have one with me,” Renzi told the paper. 

He said he would oppose the populism espoused by far-right Matteo Salvini and his anti-migrant Lega.

“I want to spend the coming months fighting against Salvini,” Renzi said. “The bad populism he represents has not been defeated.”

Dario Franceschini, the PD culture minister in the new coalition, condemned the risky strategy that could bring down the government and allow Salvini to cash in on his popularity in an early general election.

“In 1921-22, fascism was growing more and more on the back of anger and fear,” Franceschini added. 

“Socialists and liberals had a majority in parliament…but arguments and divisions within the parties left them weak, allowing Mussolini to triumph in October 1922. History should teach us not to repeat the errors of the past.”


Happier days. Then prime minister Matteo Renzi with President Barack Obama in 2016. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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