Italy lead­er­ship scramble as re­buffed Renzi quits post

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY FRANCES D’EMILIO

ROME | Ital­ian Pre­mier Mat­teo Renzi re­signed Wed­nes­day evening, his self­in­flicted penalty for staking his job on con­sti­tu­tional changes vot­ers re­sound­ingly re­jected ear­lier in the week. He will stay in a care­taker’s role at the re­quest of Italy’s pres­i­dent un­til a new govern­ment can be formed.

Mr. Renzi, con­sid­ered on of Pres­i­dent Obama’s clos­est al­lies in Europe, had first of­fered his res­ig­na­tion on Mon­day, shortly af­ter vot­ers re­jected the con­sti­tu­tional re­forms his cen­ter-left govern­ment had cham­pi­oned. Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella, Italy’s head of state, told him to stay in of­fice un­til Par­lia­ment com­pleted ap­proval of the 2017 na­tional bud­get.

A few hours af­ter the bud­get was passed on Wed­nes­day, Mr. Renzi re­turned to the Quiri­nal pres­i­den­tial palace. This time, Mr. Mattarella ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tion of the man who in Fe­bru­ary 2014 be­came Italy’s youngest pre­mier at age 39.

A pres­i­den­tial palace of­fi­cial, Ugo Zam­petti, told re­porters that Mr. Mattarella would be­gin con­sul­ta­tions Thurs­day with the heads of Par­lia­ment’s two cham­bers, as well as with for­mer Pres­i­dent Gior­gio Napoli­tano.

Af­ter hear­ing out mi­nor par­ties on Fri­day, Mr. Mattarella on Satur­day plans to take pro­pos­als from the ma­jor play­ers, in­clud­ing the Demo­cratic Party that Mr. Renzi leads and the pop­ulist 5-Star Move­ment, Par­lia­ment’s first and sec­ond largest par­ties, re­spec­tively.

It could be clear whom Mr. Mattarella might tap to be the next pre­mier once those meet­ings are done. One strong pos­si­bil­ity is a govern­ment that would rule un­til Par­lia­ment hashes out a new elec­tion law in a bid to bring po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity to Italy.

The talks are aimed at sound­ing out party lead­ers to de­ter­mine the con­fig­u­ra­tion of a new govern­ment that would have enough sup­port in Par­lia­ment to win both the re­quired con­fir­ma­tion vote and to lead the coun­try un­til elec­tions are next held.

Elec­tions are sched­uled for spring 2018, but Mr. Renzi’s hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in the ref­er­en­dum will likely has­ten that date con­sid­er­ably, pos­si­bly bring­ing a vote in spring 2017. Op­po­si­tion par­ties, in­clud­ing the anti-euro 5-Star Move­ment, are press­ing for the elec­tions to be held soon.

“We want to go to the bal­lot box soon,” said Roberto Fico, a 5-Star law­maker. But Mr. Fico, as have both other op­po­si­tion lead­ers and lead­ers from Mr. Renzi’s Democrats, also cited the need for Par­lia­ment to ap­prove a new elec­tion law be­fore the na­tional con­tests are called.

Ul­ti­mately, it will be up to Mr. Mattarella to de­cide whether Par­lia­ment should be sent pack­ing early.

“The ball’s in Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella’s court,” Re­nato Brunetta, a par­lia­ment whip for for­mer Pre­mier Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni’s op­po­si­tion Forza Italia party, said. But “as far as we go, never, never would a sec­ond man­date to Renzi” be ac­cept­able.

In a speech to a meet­ing of the Demo­cratic Party lead­er­ship just be­fore he re­signed Wed­nes­day, Mr. Renzi took re­spon­si­bil­ity for his po­lit­i­cal down­fall. But, sound­ing a bullish note, and as if he would pos­si­bly seek of­fice again in the fu­ture, he as­serted that his party would be ready for the elec­tions when­ever they are held.

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