Italian Government in Crisis as PM Letta Fights Calls to Go

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta faces a showdown with his own center-left party on Thursday that could lead to his resignation and the appointment of Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi as head of a new government within days.

Italian Government in Crisis as PM Letta Fights Calls to Go

Letta, a low-key moderate appointed to lead the cross-party coalition patched together after last year's deadlocked elections, is fighting for his political future after growing criticism from Renzi over the slow pace of economic reform.

A meeting of the 140-strong leadership committee of the Democratic Party at 3 pm (1400 GMT) will decide whether he has the backing of his party to continue, or will be forced to stand aside less than a year after taking office.

The latest bout of turmoil in Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy, has so far had little impact on financial markets, in contrast with the volatility seen during previous crises, such as the deadlock after last year's election, Reuters reported.

However, the continual uncertainty has held back any radical effort to revive an economy struggling to emerge from its worst slump since World War Two and cut levels of unemployment not seen since the 1970s.

If Renzi succeeds in ousting Letta, as most media and political commentators expect, he would be Italy's third unelected prime minister in succession after the technocrat Mario Monti and Letta, named as premier after weeks of fruitless wrangling between rival parties.

Renzi, an ambitious 39-year-old whose main experience of government has been as mayor of Florence, is not a member of parliament and has never stood in a national election.

Having burst onto the political scene promising renewal and a break with the Byzantine traditions of Italian politics, he could now gain power in a backroom maneuver reminiscent of the revolving door Christian Democrat governments of the past.

"This is a very dangerous operation by Renzi both for the country and for himself," Giovanni Toti, political adviser to former center-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, told RAI state television.

"He was supposed to be the outsider who was going to renew the PD. Now as soon as he gets close to power, he's behaving exactly like all the others," he said.

Tensions have been brewing ever since Renzi's overwhelming victory in a party leadership primary in December, but the pressure on Letta has suddenly intensified this week as powerful lobbies including the main industry association Confindustria have joined calls for faster action on reforms.

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