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Renzi to be picked as Italy's youngest PMPublish Date: Feb 17, 2014
Renzi to be picked as Italy's youngest PM
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The head of the leftist Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi arrives at the Quirinale Palace on February 17, 2014, to be nominated Italys Prime Minister by President Giorgio Napolitano. PHOTO/AFP
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ROME - Florence mayor Matteo Renzi is to be nominated Italy's youngest-ever premier Monday after a daring power grab which has been welcomed by investors but left analysts quizzing whether he has the political maturity to succeed.

As head of the leftist Democratic Party, Renzi engineered the ouster of his predecessor Enrico Letta -- a member of his own party -- accusing him of failing to live up to reform pledges in his stormy 10 months in government.

The 39-year-old will have to move quickly to form a new government once he gets the mandate from President Giorgio Napolitano as expected at 0930 GMT, and then deliver his promise to lead Italy "out of the quagmire".

"He desperately needs figures of excellence (in the cabinet), new ones if possible," editorialist Gian Antonio Stella wrote in the best-selling Corriere della Sera daily.

The previous coalition of the Democratic Party, the centrists and the New Centre-Right party is expected to remain intact even though the leader of the latter, Angelino Alfano, has warned this is "not a given".

The New Centre-Right is a minor partner in the coalition but its votes would be critical for Renzi as he does not have a majority in parliament.

"Speed is part of Renzi's personality" but "the creation of such a team is no easy task", political watcher Federico Geremicca said in La Stampa, while the Corriere said the future PM may have underestimated "the nature and complexity of the problems to be resolved."

If he succeeds in forming the government, Renzi would then have to return to Napolitano for his nomination to be confirmed and would then be sworn into office.

Analysts say the whole process could take a few days.

The energetic and web-savvy Renzi has no previous experience in national government or parliament and is seen by many as having the right kind of outsider credentials for the job.

But his critics warn he risks failing to pull together a fresh, credible cross-coalition cabinet or burning out rapidly.

"The Matteo Renzi era begins today. Whether it will be long or fleeting, destined to change Italy or end up a mere a power play, we cannot know," political analyst Stefano Folli wrote in Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore financial daily.

Many people seem willing to give him the benefit of the doubt even though they would have preferred early elections, as long as Renzi delivers on his promises to combat rampant unemployment and boost growth.

- 'Fonzie' or 'The Shining'? -

His on-the-ground local achievements like lowering some taxes, boosting recycling and encouraging innovation are seen as positive signs but analysts say he will now have to prove himself on a much bigger scale.

Renzi is little known internationally but sees himself in the mould of former British prime minister Tony Blair and his "New Labour" programme and his rise is being closely-watched by centre-left parties in Europe.

He would be the youngest serving government leader in the European Union.

His informal style is unusual in Italy's political world and his prolific use of social media and knack for catchphrases have endeared him to many younger Italians turned off by an ageing political elite.

His leather-and-jeans dress sense have also earned him the nickname "Fonzie" -- from the US sitcom "Happy Days" -- and his retro sunglasses have been likened to those used by the comedy band "The Blues Brothers".

But the past few days have cast Renzi in a darker light.

One of his critics in the Democratic Party, Pippo Civati, compared his increasingly bitter feud with Letta to a Western and his operation to unseat Letta to the Jack Nicholson horror classic "The Shining".

Following his election to the party leadership in December, Renzi had ruled out unseating Letta but did just that on Thursday, when he tabled a motion to senior party members calling for a new government.

The motion was approved with a crushing majority in what appeared to be a stage-managed event that came a day after Letta defiantly vowed not resign and accused his rival of attempting a "palace coup".

One beneficiary of the internal struggle in the centre-left has been Silvio Berlusconi.

The three-time former prime minister has scored political points by accusing Renzi of not behaving democratically, despite having himself been expelled from parliament last year over a tax fraud conviction.

Berlusconi is also involved in three other court cases including for allegedly bribing a senator to join his party, having sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute and abusing his prime ministerial powers.

AFP

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