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New head of Italy's left indicates won't push for snap election

Source: Reuters - Sun, 15 Dec 2013 04:03 PM
Author: Reuters
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ROME, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The new leader of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) indicated on Sunday he will support the ruling coalition government led by fellow PD member Enrico Letta into 2015 and does not plan to push for a snap election.

Florence mayor Matteo Renzi's landslide win in a primary ballot last week, which made him the PD candidate in any eventual election, raised speculation he might push his party to abandon its coalition government for a snap vote.

But speaking to a party assembly on Sunday, Renzi called for broad support for Letta through the rotating presidency of the European Union which Italy will assume in the second half of 2014.

"We must all help Enrico in the European presidency term," he said.

He called on the ruling parties to build a solid policy foundation for survival, like in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats this week agreed a "grand coalition" after weeks of negotiations.

"We need to make a German-style agreement, note by note, point by point and with a fixed timetable for the next 12 to 15 months," the 38-year-old Renzi said.

He said an agreement should include simplification of labour law to boost employment, changing immigration law to allow those born in Italy to foreign parents to obtain citizenship and the introduction of civil unions for gay people.

He also called on the government to draw up a new electoral law to replace the previous one, declared unconstitutional by Italy's top court earlier this month, by the end of January or risk losing credibility. Italy's parties have long said the law should be changed but have struggled to agree on how.

Letta, who won a confidence vote on Wednesday, has promised sweeping reforms to overhaul an economy mired in its longest post-war recession.

Turbulence in the Italian government has hindered attempts to reform the economy since it was formed in April, and in the last week protests over economic hardship and against a discredited political class spread to cities across Italy.

Renzi's election has boosted support for the Democratic Party, with one poll on Friday showing support up to 35.6 percent from 29.6 percent a week earlier.

The same poll showed centre-left parties led by PD would win 40.5 percent in a snap election compared to 33.6 percent for 77-year-old Silvio Berlusconi's centre right.

Berlusconi pulled his Forza Italia party out of the ruling coalition last month, but the government survived with the support of rebels who broke off to form their own party. (Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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