Italy’s ex-PM Matteo Renzi quits Democratic Party to form new movement

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) to form his own party, potentially destabilizing the days-old ruling coalition.

Italy's ex-PM Matteo Renzi quits Democratic Party to form new movement
Matteo Renzi was Italy's prime minister from 2014-16. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“I have decided to leave the PD and to build together with others a new house to do politics differently,” Renzi wrote on Facebook, barely a week after the PD's coalition with the Five Star Movement (M5S) won a confidence motion in parliament.

READ ALSO: Here is Italy's new government in full

Renzi is not himself part of the new government, formed through the unlikely PD-M5S alliance in order to thwart hard-right leader and now ex-interior minister Matteo Salvini's bid to call snap elections he thought would make him premier.

But Renzi, who was hailed as a reformer when he became Italy's youngest premier at the age of 39 in 2014, was a divisive figure within the PD, particularly for the party's left which is largely loyal to party leader Nicolas Zingaretti.

“After seven years of friendly fire I think we must take note that our values, our ideas, our dreams, cannot every day be the object of internal quarrels,” Renzi wrote.

READ ALSO: Matteo Renzi: How the one-time great hope of the Italian left fell from grace

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

He resigned as premier in 2016 and fraught relations within the PD prompted repeated speculation that Renzi would split to form his own, more politically centrist, party.

“The victory we got in parliament against populism and Salvini was important to save Italy, but it's not enough,” Renzi wrote.

Renzi said that around 30 lawmakers would announce loyalty to him, but he said he would continue to support Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government. He called Conte on Monday to reassure him that “I'm leaving the PD but [my] support for the government remains certain,” the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

Between 18-20 MPs will follow Renzi, out of the PD's 111 total. Twenty MPs are need to form an autonomous parliamentary group. Around ten senators out of the PD's 51 would also follow, the Corriere reported.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

“Today the PD is a set of currents,” Renzi told Tuesday's La Repubblica newspaper. “And I fear that it will not be able on its own to respond to Salvini's attacks and to the difficult cohabitation with the M5S.”

“I believe that there is space for something new. Not from the centre or the left, but from what has occupied the least-used space in Italian politics: the space of the future,” he told the left-leaning daily. “I won't tell you the name but it won't be a traditional party,” Renzi said.

PD leader Zingaretti lamented what he called “an error”.

“We are sorry… But now let's think about Italians' future, work, environment, business, education, investments. A new agenda and the need to rebuild hope with good governance and a new PD,” Zingaretti tweeted.

Renzi said he wanted to spend the coming months fighting Salvini. “I want to make war on Salvini, not Nicola Zingaretti… the bad populism that he [Salvini] represents has not been defeated,” Renzi said.

“Populism doesn't know artificial intelligence, populism is natural stupidity,” said Renzi, who is seen as heir to Italy's Christian Democrat politics which historically occupied the political middle ground.

Salvini took to Twitter to accuse Renzi of “first collecting jobs and ministries, then founding a 'new' party to fight Salvini… Italians will punish these sell-outs.”

Renzi said his new party would not contest elections for at least a year. If the current coalition survives, a general election is due in 2023 and European elections in 2024.

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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.