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

Rome

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.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?