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Matteo Renzi Becomes Italy’s Youngest Prime Minister

Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, resigned last Thursday after a vote from his political party, demanding for a new government. Matteo Renzi became Italy’s youngest Prime Minister at age 39 on Saturday, February 22nd.

The Democratic Party, led by Matteo Renzi submitted a motion to start out a new political era. This motion has been approved by a wide majority of vote. Therefore, Italy’s President, Giorgio Napolitano, asked the former Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to form a new government.

Renzi accepted to take on this responsibility and promised to “put all his energy, enthusiasm, and commitment” to complete successfully electoral and economic reforms. The Democratic Party leader singled out four major government priorities: institutional reforms, labor, public administration, and tax authorities.


The Italian Democratic Party Flag

What does it entail for the new government coalition formed between the Democratic Party and Forza Italia? The political shift should unlikely jeopardize this political coalition.

The Democratic Party acquired absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, but failed to obtain clear majority in the Senate in February of 2013.

Despite Letta’s resignation, this unprecedented political collaboration is bound to linger in the future. Matteo Renzi is highly respected by many Italian politicians, even including center-right Forza Italia leader, Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy is facing its deepest economic crisis since the end of the Second World War Unemployment hovers just above 12% and gross domestic product has shrunk by 4% in the last two years.

Consequently, Italians did not have trust in former Prime Minister Letta to stimulate economic growth. Letta believed economy was back on track as Italy experienced 0.1% economic growth in the fourth semester. Financial markets reinforced this perspective when they lowered 10-year loan tax interest to 3.7%.

In the past few months, tensions between Letta and Renzi have escalated because of Renzi’s accusations of Letta’s slowness and lack of determination.

Renzi was fearful of being labeled as responsible of Letta’s government failure if Letta failed to rekindle the economy.

On the other side, Letta considers Renzi as a traitor.


Matteo Renzi at an assembly

Minutes after the Democratic Party referendum, Matteo Renzi expressed himself using a soccer metaphor: “you’ve given me the captain’s armband so I will fight against all the balls every second of my term.”

The young and dynamic Mayor of Florence didn’t lose time to thank all the Italians who voted for him. Renzi has been involved in politics since his nineteenth birthday.

He campaigned for the Christian Democratic Party, the Daisy, all while he was in college. He then quickly moved up the political ladder. After graduating from law school, he became President of the Florence region at age 29 and was elected Mayor of Florence five years later. His age is a powerful asset in a gerontocratic country led by 88 years old President, Giorgio Napolitano. Matteo Renzi clearly intends to capitalize on his age and rejuvenate the entire Italian political establishment.

Last December, Matteo Renzi easily won the Democratic Party Primary with 68% of the votes. He beat the former Communist Party member, Gianni Cuperlo.

Similar to US President, Barack Obama, Matteo Renzi is renowned for his charisma and laid back style.

He manages his image very carefully through the social media, TV shows, and newspapers. Polls credited him with a 54% favorable opinion vote three weeks ago. His opponents compare him to former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi for his alleged superficiality and great interest for the media.

However, the Florentine mayor chooses to assume his bold stature: “many observers affirmed the Democratic Party and I were excessively ambitious,” he said. “Indeed, we need to be very ambitious and determined to think we can rescue Italy from the quagmire.”

Many people describe Matteo Renzi as the perfect son-in-law. The new Prime Minister inspires from Tony Blair who transformed the Labour Party into the New Labour in the late 1990s.


Renzi addressing the media

Prime Minister Renzi is determined to make his party “more adaptive and innovative.” His direct and upright style granted him the nickname “Il Rottamatore,” the Wrecker. Renzi insists Italy needs “to junk all his old obsolete political leaders”. He stated: “time has come to bring a new generation of leaders to power that is not going to do more poorly than the older generation.

Matteo Renzi needs now to prove his qualities to Italy and Brussels.

He is the third President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian government since former Prime Minister Berlusconi to take up this position without a popular vote.

Renzi also faces some tough obstacles. He will have to deal with many political parties with divergent political interests in order to constitute a broad coalition.

Diplomatic skills will be fundamental to secure this mission. Matteo Renzi has built a definite agenda before he leaves the Palazzo Chigi: First; the electoral and Senate reform in late February, Second; labor issues in March, Third; administration reform before the end of April, and finally; tax reforms in May.

The world is now looking at Renzi’s impact on Italy’s revival. We will soon be able to see if the person nicknamed “wrecker” is going to turn into a “builder.”

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