Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Prime Minister for Italy

A power struggle in the Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's Partido Popular (PD) was decided against him in an assembly of the PD in favor of the more conservative Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence. Letta has announced his resignation effective Friday (tomorrow) to 88-year-old President Giorgio Napolitano who is expected to name Renzi as Prime Minister on the same day.

The reports I've seen on the change focus on the fact of the governmental change and comments about how this may raise questions about political stability in Italy. That's in part an old stereotype because after the Second World War Italy was notorious for frequent changes of government. But a reform of the political system in the 1990s mitigated that old problem to a large extent. The early reports I saw tended to say little about what it might mean in terms of policy changes.

But they talk about Renzi's commitment to "reforms" and his complaint that Letta hadn't moved them along fast enough. Maybe the writers just take it for granted now that in the eurozone context "reform" means holding to German Prime Minister Angela Merkel's neoliberal austerity course.

The PD is Italy's center-left social-democratic party. It was formed out of a merger of the former Communist Party and the former Christian Democratic Party. Letta is from the former Communist group in the PD, Renzi from the Christian Democratic one. Neither of them challenge the Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning economics on which Merkel insists and to which EU treaties now largely bind them. It's just that former Christian Democrat Renzi apparently wants to drive down Italian incomes, reduce public services and deregulate business faster than former Communist Letta.

In a sidebar to the BBC News' report on Letta's resignation, Italian PM Enrico Letta to tender resignation on Friday 02/13/2014, David Willey writes:

He is under 40, charismatic, smart and - in his own words - "hugely ambitious". That is his strength.

But he also has his weaknesses. He has so far had a career only in local politics in his native Florence, and lacks experience in Rome's Byzantine political arena. He has never been elected to parliament and has no popular mandate.

According to opinion polls, most Italians would prefer him not to take over the reins of government from Enrico Letta, the much lower-key prime minister who ran the country for the past 10 months.

Meanwhile in Greece: Greece jobless rate hits new record of 28% BBC News 02/13/2014.

Heckuva job, Angie, heckuva job!

Other stories:

James Mackenzie, Italian PM Letta to resign after party withdraws support Reuters 02/13/2014

Regierungskrise in Rom: Italiens Ministerpräsident Letta tritt zurück Süddeutsche Zeitung 13.02.2014

Andrew Frye, Letta Says He’ll Resign as Italian Prime Minister Bloomberg News 02/13/2014

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