Focus shifts to Renzi as Letta resigns as Italian PM

Premier forced out of office after 10 months by his own party

Enrico Letta arrives at the presidential palace to tender his resignation after his Democratic Party backed leader Matteo Renzi’s call for a new government. EPA/Alessandro Di Meo

Enrico Letta arrives at the presidential palace to tender his resignation after his Democratic Party backed leader Matteo Renzi’s call for a new government. EPA/Alessandro Di Meo

 


Prime Minister Enrico Letta resigned his office as expected, on another dramatic day which saw Italy’s most recent government crisis move into overdrive.

Not only was Mr Letta’s “irrevocable” resignation immediately accepted by state president Giorgio Napolitano but, within hours, consultations to appoint a successor had already begun. By the standards of an Italian crisis, this was conducting business at a supersonic pace.

Appointed prime minister just 10 months ago in the wake of an inconclusive February 2013 general election, Mr Letta was hounded out of office on Thursday by his own party, the Democratic Party (PD). At a party meeting, the PDs effectively opted to change their government “jockey” when they voted overwhelmingly (136-16) in favour of a proposal from newly elected party leader, Matteo Renzi, calling for a “new phase” and a “new government”. Which, put simply, means that Mr Renzi will now succeed Mr Letta.


Consultations begin
Mr Napolitano argued that he had no option but to take cognisance of the new situation in which Mr Letta could no longer rely on the support of his own party in his coalition executive. In an attempt to move matters along, the president said there would be no point in a formal parliamentary resignation, opting to start his consultation process almost immediately, beginning with the speakers of both houses yesterday afternoon.

Today, the consultations will continue, with the president meeting all the major party leaders with the exception of Beppe Grillo of the M5S protest movement and Matteo Salvini of the Northern League.

Mr Grillo’s M5S has declined to attend because it objects to the fact the president has also chosen to consult with “a condemned criminal” in the person of Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia. Mr Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud last summer and expelled from the Senate.


Nomination already decided
The Northern League declined to attend because it considers the consultations “useless” in that the outcome, namely the nomination of Mr Renzi, has already been decided.

Highlighting the “delicate economic moment being experienced by the country”, the president called for a swift “solution” to this crisis, which would enable an eventual new government to swiftly enact new electoral legislation. The existing electoral legislation, the porcellum (pig’s arse), introduced by the 2005 Berlusconi government, is widely perceived as one of the causes of the present political instablility.

The president’s consultations are expected to be concluded by this evening, which means Mr Renzi could be nominated tomorrow.

In a tweet yesterday, Mr Letta reflected on a difficult 10 months in office at the head of an unprecedented centre-left-centre-right coalition, saying:

“At the Presidential Palace to resign. Thanks to all those who helped me. Every day as if it were the last.”