Matteo Renzi, last chance for Italy?

“Weakened Italy awaits ‘demolition man’ Renzi” Financial Times entitled Thursday, February 12[1]. Outside the ‘bel Paese’ Matteo Renzi is the Mayor of Florence become secretariat of the main Italian party with an excellent demonstration of popular support, accompanied by the fame of ‘ rottamatore ‘ of the leaders of the Italian left , and rampant young leader with the ambition to remove fouling of the State bureaucracy. In the aftermath of President Letta’s live streaming ousting, several foreign newspapers and networks have even pointed out his undue haste, his thirst for power[2] and bad timing that threatens to burn the ideas and positive energy he has[3].

Often defined as the Italian Obama[4] with the ambition to transform the Democratic Party in the Labour Party of Tony Blair (politician who often he has announced plans to inspire[5]), Renzi will now be the main actor of Italian politics, realizing also in the left what with Berlusconi has been the rule of the right , i.e., the identification between party leadership and premiership. The move by which the Democratic Party has ousted Enrico Letta, perceived by some observers[6] as a pure example of ‘Machiavellism’, probably will not affect the vision that he has crystallized abroad in the previous months. In the aftermath of his election as secretary of the PD Blair himself had called him a ‘true progressive’[7] and Bill Emmott , former editor of The Economist and author of the successful documentary about the Italian situation Girlfriend in a Coma, hoped that the political parable of Renzi took the form of the former British Prime Minister[8].

Now, however, Renzi will have turn into facts all this baggage of hopes that Italian public opinion, with all due respect of his opponents, seems to have invested. A public opinion, to tell the truth, represented in the real numbers only by those who have expressed a preference for the Mayor of Florence in the primaries last December. Too little[9] to feel Renzi as a legitimate representative of the Italian people, an element that does kick up a fuss as it was for Mario Monti and Enrico Letta, none of which were directly chosen by the people to lead the country[10]. Routine that President Napolitano is preparing to extend, however, and that falls entirely within the constitutionality, not being expected the direct election of the Prime Minister.

But the track is sure to be full of obstacles. First of all, the coalition that will support the origin of the new Government will be the same as that until last Thursday supported Enrico Letta. A coalition which, however, contain within itself the Democratic Party, a center-right party, Civic Choice of Mario Monti and the Center. A coalition, then, that will require a series of political compromises, medicine Matteo Renzi seems to be seriously intolerant to. On the most important issues of the political agenda, economic and social ones, the labor market , institutional reforms and the electoral law, civil rights, anyone who is at the head of a coalition government knows that it must give up part of their intentions. A risk, therefore, for the image of decisive person that Renzi was able to give of himself.

Italy seems to be returning again in a period of uncertainty similar to that of the First Republic, when Governments were short-lived and the ‘relay race’ between the President and the other, even of the same party, it was a practice, not something unusual. The country pays a heavy price for its political instability failing to attract, for example, enough foreign investment[11]. With the crisis still biting, although in the fourth quarter of 2013 Italy has recorded a GDP growth of 0.1%, many have been raised demands for renegotiation of some European economic parameters. Letta failed about this, definitely gaining credibility in Europe, treasure also gained by his predecessor Monti, but not putting it to good use. Will Renzi be able to take such an important step as he will most likely to be President of the European Union in the second half of 2014?

It is apparent, therefore, another question about the possible Government Renzi, ie, the time horizon over which to operate. The mandate of Enrico Letta was born already limited in time, with the aim not only to remedy the economic issues, even putting repair to the institutional implant in eighteen months. In significant delay on the roadmap, another stranding was envisaged for the executive. Renzi, however, has set the executive to be born a horizon until the end of regular term, that of 2018, in an attempt not to lower ambitions and expectations.

The changes in the political leadership of the Ministries, then, give rise to doubts. The only fact that Renzi has entered the public administration reform in the agenda of the Government suggests that the real problem of the Italian stall during the last twenty years does not reside in the political leadership of the Ministries, but in the bureaucracy. Can, therefore, the simple turnover of Ministers repair this situation?

Probably the media success of Renzi is the result of the personalization of Italian politics, but it is true that the mayor of Florence seems to be not the last, but the only card to play to unlock a stalemate that no one knows in who will be awarded. Foreign observers seems to be confident, and the outrage that followed the ‘maneuver palace’ with which Renzi will arrive at Palazzo Chigi is likely to be soon forgotten if the Italians will reap the fruits of his premiership.


Francesco Angelone

Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)



[1] G. Dinmore, Weakened Italy awaits ‘demolition man’ Renzi, “Financial Times”, February 12, 2014.

[3] Anon., Italy’s Renzi Has Ideas, Energy and Bad Timing, “Bloomberg”, February 14, 2014.

[4] E. Povoloedo, An Italian-Style Obama on the Political Trail, “The New York Times”, November 9, 2012.

[5] L. Davies, Matteo Renzi: we want to restart Italy, “The Guardian”, April 24, 2013.

[7] Anon., Blair: Renzi è una speranza per l’Italia e per l’Europa, “Il Sole 24 Ore”, December 10, 2013.

[8] B. Emmott, Let us hope Renzi will become an Italian Blair, “Financial Times”,  December 9, 2014.

[9] C. Emsden, Italy’s President Expected to Tap Renzi to Form Government, “Wall Street Journal”, February 16, 2014.

[10] J. Yardley, A Berlusconi Reminder as Italy Faces Another Unelected Premier, “New York Times”, February 17, 2014.


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