Confidence in Italy’s prime minister plummets

Italians’ confidence in their young premier Matteo Renzi has plummeted since his whirlwind start early last year, according to a new opinion poll.

Confidence in Italy’s prime minister plummets
Italians are losing faith in their leader, Matteo Renzi. Photo: Thierry Charlier/AFP

Admired for his energy and drive, Renzi was well-received, at home and abroad, when he became Italy’s prime minister in February 2014, despite the Italian electorate not having a say in the matter.

A poll at the time showed that 58 percent of those surveyed had faith in him, a figure that rose to 67 percent after his centre-left Democratic Party’s remarkable success in the European Elections a few months later.

But confidence in the 40-year-old now stands at 35 percent, according to a poll carried out by the Milan-based Piepoli Institute on behalf of La Stampa.

Aside from an uptick after he announced tax cuts earlier this month, faith in the leader has gradually dwindled since the European Elections.

Still, despite the drop, Renzi is more popular than other Italian party leaders.

According to the poll, just 25 percent have confidence in the anti-immigration Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, while the Five Star Movement’s Beppe Grillo is just one percentage point behind.

Silvio Berlusconi’s popularity also continues to wane, with just 13 percent of Italians polled having faith in him. Feeling the effects of being sidelined, the Forza Italia leader said last week that his long time friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, wanted him as economy minister. However, a spokesperson for the Kremlin later said the offer was meant “figuratively”.

Italy’s most popular politicians, apart from President Sergio Mattarella, are Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan (53 percent), Infrastructure and Transport Minister Graziano Delrio (52 percent), Culture Minister Dario Franchesini and Maurizio Martina, the minister for agriculture, each with 50 percent.

Once described by the media as “a young man in a hurry”, Renzi has been quick to push through reforms, including controversial labour and education reforms, despite his dwindling popularity.

But while they might be losing faith in their leader, the survey also found a slight uptick among Italians in their confidence in an economic recovery. Just as well they like their economy minister.

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Italy expands €200 payment scheme and introduces public transport bonus

Italy's government will extend its proposed one-time €200 benefit to more people and introduce a €60 public transport payment, Italian media reported on Thursday.

Italy expands €200 payment scheme and introduces public transport bonus

Seasonal workers, domestic and cleaning staff, the self-employed, the unemployed and those on Italy’s ‘citizens’ income’ will be added to the categories of people in Italy eligible for a one-off €200 payment, ministers reportedly announced on Thursday evening.

The one-time bonus, announced earlier this week as part of a package of financial measures designed to offset the rising cost of living, was initially set to be for pensioners and workers on an income of less than €35,000 only.

However the government has now agreed to extend the payment to the additional groups following pressure from Italy’s labour, families, and regional affairs ministers and representatives of the Five Star Movement, according to news agency Ansa.

Pensioners and employees will reportedly receive the €200 benefit between June and July via a direct payment into their pension slip or pay packet.

For other groups, a special fund will be created at the Labour Ministry and the procedures for claiming and distributing payments detailed in an incoming decree, according to the Corriere della Sera news daily.

One new measure introduced at the cabinet meeting on Thursday is the introduction of a one-time €60 public transport bonus for students and workers earning below €35,000. The bonus is reportedly designed to encourage greater use of public transport and will take the form of an e-voucher that can be used when purchasing a bus, train or metro season pass.

Other provisions reportedly proposed in the energy and investment decree (decreto energia e investimenti), which is still being adjusted and amended, include extending energy bill discounts, cutting petrol excise duty and rolling on the deadline to claim Italy’s popular ‘superbonus 110’.

The €14 billion aid package, intended to lessen the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, will “fight the higher cost of living” and is “a temporary situation”, Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

The Local will report further details of the payment scheme once they become available following final approval of the decree.