Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Thursday said he will resign after his own party voted for a change of government.
Letta will tender his resignation to Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano on Friday, opening the way for centre-left Democratic Party (PD) leader and Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi to replace him.
The decision to resign came after the party supported a call by 39-year-old Renzi for a more ambitious government to pull Italy out of its economic slump.
The party thanked Letta for his "positive work" but called for "a new phase with a new executive".
Ever since being elected to lead the party in December, the ambitious and media-savvy Renzi has accused Letta of dragging his feet on crucial political reforms and failing to do enough to combat rampant unemployment.
"Italy cannot live in a situation of uncertainty and instability. We are at a crossroads," Renzi told the 140-strong leadership committee.
Letta did not attend the PD meeting, saying he wanted his party to decide freely whether to continue supporting him.
President Napolitano is expected to call on Renzi to form a new administration.
Growing criticism over the slow pace of economic reform has left Letta, a low-key moderate appointed to lead the coalition patched together after last year's deadlocked elections, increasingly isolated.
"People have accused me and the PD of having an outsize ambition. I don't deny this. We all need to have this, from me to the last party member," Renzi said in his speech to the PD's leadership committee. "I am asking you to help us get Italy out of the mire."
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 stalemate after last year's election.
However, the continual uncertainty has held back any concerted effort to revive an economy struggling to emerge from its worst slump since World War Two or overhaul a political system blamed for hampering any deep reform programme.
In his speech, Renzi acknowledged that forcing Letta out and trying to form a new government with the existing centrist and centre-right coalition partners carried risks for both the government and himself personally. But he said there was no alternative.
"Putting oneself on the line right now carries an element of risk, but a politician has the duty to take risks at certain moments," he said. Renzi added that he saw the new government lasting until 2018.
(FRANCE 24 with Reuters and AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-13