Silvio Berlusconi's back... to broker voting reform: Italy's new PM Matteo Renzi to do a deal with his predecessor

Mr Renzi is making electoral reform his priority – but his first job will be to meet his political enemies head on

Rome

Italy's head of state President Giorgio Napolitano yesterday set in train his third prime ministerial appointment in less than three years. His most conspicuous meeting was not, however, with soon-to-be premier Matteo Renzi, but with the disgraced tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, who appears to be enjoying yet another unlikely political revival.

Pundits are predicting that the centrist Mr Renzi, dubbed "Italy's Tony Blair", could be sworn in as soon as Tuesday. In addition to reviving Italy's moribund economy the 39-year-old has promised to make a radical overhaul of its flawed electoral and political system his priority, to prevent hung parliaments of the type Italy currently labours under.

But to get a deal on electoral reform through parliament, Mr Renzi is, to the horror of many in his centre-left Democratic Party, doing a deal with convicted tax fraud Berlusconi. Berlusconi, as a convicted criminal, has been expelled from parliament, but still leads the biggest centre-right grouping, Forza Italia.

Observers noted this weekend that, in one sense, Berlusconi could even claim the moral high ground. On Friday night at a regional election rally in Sardinia, Berlusconi, who is currently on trial for bribing a senator with €3m (£2.4m) to swap sides in parliament, told the crowds: "I was the last premier to be elected by the people." He said of Mr Renzi's imminent ascension to the premier's office: "This is not democracy."

Democratic Party leader and Florence Mayor, Matteo Renzi Democratic Party leader and Florence Mayor, Matteo Renzi He has a point. Berlusconi was the last Italian prime minister to win an election, back in 2008. Mr Renzi, on the other hand, will be the third leader in a row appointed by President Napolitano. By being at the centre of negotiations on electoral reform Berlusconi will do his best to ensure a system that gives some advantage to his centre-right party. He remains a force, even outside parliament.

One key meeting for Mr Renzi this weekend was with Angelino Alfano, interior minister and leader of the New Centre-Right party – a minor partner in the coalition whose support will be important for a Renzi-led government. But the real battles for Mr Renzi are likely to be with Berlusconi and the populist Five Star Movement (5SM) of rabble-rousing ex-comic Beppe Grillo.

The left-wing daily Il Fatto Quotidiano quoted one of Renzi's inner circle as saying that the neo-premier's primary objective in his first 100 days will be "to bury" the anti-establishment M5S, which stunned the establishment in last February's election by coming from nowhere to win 25 per cent of the vote.

Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano looks on Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano looks on Already Grillo – who like Berlusconi leads his party despite not having a parliamentary seat – has torn into Renzi, dismissing him as "a careerist without scruples". The M5S has boycotted the consultation process at the presidential palace and says it will not co-operate with a Renzi government. Berlusconi, as calculating as ever, has praised Mr Renzi. In Sardinia he said: "I rate Renzi. He's an intelligent person and not a communist; I've found him in tune with myself." The mogul is no doubt aware that such comments are likely to increase anger among the left-wingers in Mr Renzi's PD party.

Giuseppe Orsina, professor of political science at Luiss University in Rome, says Renzi faces huge risks by assuming power in this way. But according to the source close to Renzi, quoted in Il Fatto: "If there's a thing that excites Matteo it's the word 'risk'. There'll be lots of fireworks." There will also be three-time premier Berlusconi lying in wait.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones