Renzi rules out June elections

Bid to close distance with minority threatening to split

Renzi rules out June elections

Rome, February 15 - Democratic Party (PD) leader and ex-premier Matteo Renzi on Wednesday ruled out June elections in a bid to close the distance with a PD minority threatening to split unless elections take place at the end of the legislative term early next year. Renzi told bigwigs of the centre-left group that early elections will not take place in June as the party is going to have a congress in the coming months, sources said Wednesday. At the meeting an agreement between ex-premier Renzi and Culture Minister Dario Franceschini was confirmed, the sources said. The Renzi and Franceschini groups agreed that the congress should be concluded by the end of April, the sources said. The premier now reportedly wants an election in September, before a budget has to be framed, but the PD internal opposition wants Premier Paolo Gentiloni to serve out the rest of the government term until February 2018. Matters are expected to come to a head at a PD national assembly, convened to call the congress, on Sunday, if the rebels actually attend, which they have said they are not yet sure they will. They are also threatening to boycott the congress if it is called too soon for them. Renzi said Wednesday that he wants his opponents to attend the party congress and challenge his ideas, rather than breaking away. "The verb for the congress and the primaries is not 'go away!' but 'come', bring ideas, bring dreams, bring criticism," the ex-premier said in his E-news newsletter. The left-wing minority that is critical of Renzi has long been threatening a split, and its threats have become more vocal despite Renzi's attempts to meet them halfway on the congress and election dates. On Tuesday former PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani said the split has effectively already happened, among card-carrying PD members at least. Renzi quit as premier in December after his flagship Constitutional reform was rejected in a referendum. He is expected to resign as head of the PD imminently, with the party assembly set to be held at the weekend to call an early congress to settle issues regarding the party's vision and leadership. The leftwing minority is against this plan, arguing, among other things, that it could destabilise the government of Premier Paolo Gentiloni, who is also a PD member.

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