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ITALY - POLITICS

Italy's left gets new leader

2 min

Lawyer and sometime-novelist Dario Franceschini was elected Saturday to lead the Italian opposition Democratic Party. His subtle rise to the head of the party was realized as the former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni stepped down.

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AFP - Dario Franceschini, elected Saturday to head the struggling Italian opposition Democratic Party after Walter Veltroni stepped down, is a lawyer from a traditional Catholic background and a budding novelist in his free time.

Franceschini, 50, widely known for his discretion, was born in the central northern town of Ferrara and began his political career in the 1970s, setting up the Student Democratic Association while still studying law.

The group drew on Catholic and centrist traditions and in 1980 he joined the Christian Democrats, then a party in decline after dominating Italian politics for many years.

Franceschini left the party when it took a populist turn but then rejoined it as the Christian Democrats entred into the centre-left coalition that paved the way for Romano Prodi to come to power in 2006.

He got his first government post in the centre-left adminstration of Massimo d'Alema (1999-2000) and in 2001 won election as a deputy for the first time.

He helped set up the Marguerite party, which was based on the defence of Christian values and centre-left politics, before winning re-election in 2006 and 2008.

Franceschini joined the Democratic Party when it was set up by Veltroni in 2007, taking the number two spot behind the former Rome mayor to reflect the balance between its origins in the communists and on the left of the Christian Democrats.

"My political culture comes from the Catholic democratic (tradition)," Franceschini has said, while stressing the non-sectarian nature of politics.

"I thank Dario Franceschini for his loyalty and support, rare virtues in a politician," Veltroni said when he stepped down earlier this week.

Franceschini is also known as a novelist, with his first book published in 2006 and a second in 2007.

Franceschini is married and has two daughters.

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