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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Planned anarchist protest puts police on alert in Venice

An unauthorised anarchist demonstration planned in Venice has led to the deployment of 700 police officers and local businesses closing early.

Planned anarchist protest puts police on alert in Venice

As many as 700 police officers have been on patrol in Venice since the early hours of Saturday morning in anticipation of an unauthorised demonstration by anarchists scheduled for 3pm in the Campo Santa Margherita.

With tensions high in the city, many local businesses in the area have boarded up their shopfronts and closed for the day. Tourists in the area are being moved on by police.

Police have also been carrying out checks on new arrivals in the city at the Ponte della Liberta, according to La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre. The extra security has caused long queues and traffic on the bridges that connect the historic city with the mainland. 

Around 200 anarchists are expected in the city, with some even travelling from outside Italy. 

The demonstration has been organised in support of Juan Antonio Sorreche Fernandez, a Spanish citizen sentenced to 28 years in prison by a Treviso court for planting a bomb at the headquarters of Lega di Villorba in 2018.

As of 2pm, La Nuova reports that the Campo Santa Margherita is calm but that demonstrators had started to arrive in the city.

Business and tourist activity continues as normal in the rest of the city.