Renzi Urges Italy’s Left to Form Centrist Coalition

The Florence mayor seems to prepare for another leadership challenge.

Florence mayor Matteo Renzi during a television appearance, January 23
Florence mayor Matteo Renzi during a television appearance, January 23 (La Presse/Gian Mattia D’Alberto)

The progressive mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi urged his party’s leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Thursday to either form a ruling coalition with the right or call new elections. “We cannot stop here, waiting for Bersani to get support,” he told La Repubblica newspaper.

According to Renzi, who lost a party leadership bid against Bersani in December of last year, the left, which won a majority in the lower chamber of parliament in February’s election but not the Senate where conservatives have nearly as many seats, has little choice but to enter a “grand coalition” with the parties that formed former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s governments.

Bersani has ruled out such a centrist alliance and tried to persuade the anti-establishment Five Star Movement to support him in the Senate. It refuses to back any government, however, although it might endorse specific policy proposals, ranging from anti-graft legislation to green energy programs.

Berlusconi has already signaled that he is willing to support a coalition with the left, provided his party gets the presidency in April’s election.

Italy’s three biggest trade unions also want Bersani to form a government “at any cost,” even if it’s with a party that’s less sympathetic to labor. The alternative would be reelections in which the Five Star Movement could do even better.

If there are new elections, Bersani’s Partito Democratico could well replace him with Menzi, a social liberal who is seen as more appealing to centrist and right-wing voters. The mayor himself claimed that he could do better against Berlusconi. “If I run, he will be in trouble,” he told La Repubblica.

Renzi previously argued in an interview with Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper that if the party had been willing to “talk to disillusioned center-right voters” who again opted for Berlusconi instead, seeing little alternative, “perhaps we would have won the election.”

A recent SWG survey showed 28 percent of Italians backing Renzi for the prime ministership compared with 14 percent for Bersani and 10 for Berlusconi.

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