Prime Minister Enrico Letta quits in St Valentine’s Day Massacre... but can 'Italy’s Tony Blair' Matteo Renzi win nation’s heart?

Italy’s political system could be about to see its biggest shake-up in decades


The Italian press presented it as a political St Valentine’s Day Massacre. But the ruthless ousting of premier Enrico Letta by his ambitious rival and rising centre-left star Matteo Renzi had an air of inevitability about it.

For weeks the talk has been that Mr Renzi, the Mayor of Florence, would “whack” the mild-mannered Mr Letta. He achieved the objective by effectively calling a Democratic Party (PD) confidence vote on Mr Letta on Thursday evening. Mr Letta had no choice but to quit today.

The head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, went through the motion of holding talks with senior parliamentary figures to pick a nominee to replace Letta. Mr Napolitano’s office said the talks would conclude today.

No one is in doubt, however, that as leader of the biggest grouping in the lower house, Mr Renzi will be asked to form a government. He will then be sworn in and pick a new cabinet, which will have to pass confidence votes in both houses of parliament.

Is this Italy's Tony Blair? Meet Matteo Renzi, the rising star of Italian politics

The question now is whether the dynamic Mr Renzi, dubbed “Italy’s Tony Blair” , can do any better than Mr Letta, who led a left-right coalition that achieved very little in its 10-month life span.

If some pundits are to be believed, Italy’s political system could be about to see its biggest shake-up in decades, with a concerted move towards the formation of a modern two-party state.

Mr Renzi has promised to make a radical overhaul of Italy’s flawed electoral and political system his top priority, to prevent such electoral fiascos in the future. He will seek to downgrade the power of the Senate, which currently has parity with the Chamber of Deputies, and to introduce a new electoral system – measures aimed at cutting the likelihood of hung parliaments.

Italian Premier Enrico Letta arrives at the Quirinal Palace to tender his resignation after his Democratic Party backed leader Matteo Renzi's call for a new government, Italian Premier Enrico Letta arrives at the Quirinal Palace to tender his resignation (EPA) One eminent political scientist, Roberto D’Alimonte of Rome’s LUISS University, says that Mr Renzi’s “ultimate ambition” is to turn Italy into a modern two-party state with stable government and himself at the helm, and that is something worth fighting – or even scheming – for.

Professor D’Alimonte, who is close to Renzi circles, said that Mr Renzi’s proposal to prevent smaller political parties, ie, those that win less than 4.5 per cent of the vote, from entering parliament, was designed with this in mind.

However, to the horror of many in his centre-left party, to win vital consensus on these reforms, Mr Renzi has already been in talks with disgraced centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi. Despite his tax fraud conviction, Mr Berlusconi as leader of the big Forza Italia group, will also be consulted by President Napolitano on the new administration.

“Renzi will schmooze Berlusconi in a way the others won’t,” Professor James Walston, a politics professor at the American University of Rome, told The Independent, “which is a pity, because it doesn’t seem appropriate having a convicted criminal leading a delegation to the Presidential Palace.”

Several PD figures have voiced concerns that these developments could strengthen Mr Berlusconi.

Dawn of a new era: Italy’s ‘Tony Blair’ shakes up centre left with youthful team  

And some analysts said Mr Renzi was now tainted with the image of a cloak-and-dagger politician who overthrew Mr Letta – a leading member of his own party – despite an earlier agreement to work with him until 2015.

But to realise his ambitions, Mr Renzi must take risks. As such, he might succeed in overhauling the voting system within the next year or so. Vital – but controversial – economic reforms, particularly new flexibility for Italy’s labour markets, look less achievable.

No one doubts their importance, though. “The problem is this: can he help get the country moving again?” said Carlo De Benedetti, a prominent Italian businessmen.

Already, the knives are out for Mr Renzi in many quarters, as the Italian public is forced to stomach another leader it did not vote for.

Thanks to Italy’s fractured party politics and the proportional representation system that he’s vowed to dismantle, Mr Renzi will be the third successive premier selected by President Napolitano rather than the electorate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living