'Gambling on newness': Italy's youngest ever PM, Matteo Renzi, has an ambitious agenda

The 39-year-old must stablise government and push forward with economic recovery

Matteo Renzi became Italy's youngest ever prime minister, at the age of 39, yesterday as he was sworn in – but he will be under pressure to deliver on promises to create a more stable government and push forward with economic recovery.

The former Boy Scout and leader of the centre-left Democratic Party appointed an almost equally youthful cabinet, with women making up half its 16 members, the highest ever proportion.

Commentators noted that there were no big names capable of challenging the authority of the new leader, who came to power after ousting fellow Democrat Enrico Letta, to the anger of many in their party, meaning that Mr Renzi will also face the bulk of criticism if reforms are not forthcoming swiftly. While there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel following the country's worst economic crisis of the modern era, with signs of growth appearing, Mr Renzi thrust aside Mr Letta over the slow pace of economic reforms.

The swearing-in ceremony was a tense affair. Mr Letta gave Mr Renzi a limp handshake during a handover that lasted just 20 seconds. The outgoing premier did not smile at his betrayer, who forced a wan smile, and neither looked each other in the eye, the Associated Press reported.

The new environment minister, Gian Luca Galletti, told Sky TG24 TV that the blunt-speaking Mr Renzi conducted his first cabinet meeting "more like a board meeting".

The inexperience of this cabinet means that much of the responsibility will rest on the new premier, who became leader of his party only in December. He tweeted yesterday that it would be "tough" but insisted "we'll do it".

The government will have to win a vote of confidence in parliament, expected on Monday, before it starts work officially.

Italy is the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, after Germany and France, but has racked up a ¤2trn (£1.6trn) public debt as its industrial sector has crumbled. Youth unemployment stands at about 40 per cent.

"Renzi seems to be betting everything on himself, on his political energy," an editorial in La Repubblica newspaper said.

"The acrobat is on the high wire, alone and without a safety net.

"Let's hope he manages, otherwise the only thing that remains are the populist clowns."

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, led by former comedian Beppe Grillo, is seen as a possible successor if Mr Renzi's government collapses.

"The responsibility is enormous and this must not fail," Rocco Palombella, secretary general of the UILM union, said.

The new prime minister, previously mayor of Florence, is a keen cyclist and favours jeans, a leather jacket and retro sunglasses over the sharp suits usually worn by the political elite. He is reportedly a fan of the band U2 and Italian rapper Jovanotti.

He cut taxes in Florence and is said to model himself on Tony Blair and Britain's New Labour. But his term of office in Florence divided the city, with some suggesting he talked a good game but failed to deliver.

Mr Renzi has laid out an ambitious agenda for his first months in office, promising a sweeping overhaul of the electoral and constitutional system to give Italy more stable governments in future. The labour and tax systems and the bloated public administration are also to be reformed.

However, the unwieldy government coalition, with the small centre-right NCD party on which Mr Renzi will depend for a majority, remains unchanged from the one that backed Mr Letta.

Political commentator Mario Calabresi told La Stampa newspaper that the new prime minister was "gambling on freshness, newness and energy … [but] doubts must be raised over the government's experience and ability to have a bearing on the worst post-war economic crisis Italy has known".

For all the cabinet's youthful energy, it is its oldest member who may prove to be key. Finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan, 64, chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, was described as an "expert, with a renowned political sensibility, appreciated and valued in Europe and international forums" by Stefano Folli, of the daily business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

"Italy's credibility will rest almost entirely on his shoulders, representing both the newness of the Renzi government but also continuity with the things that matter."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions